Wild continue playoff push vs. struggling Blues

NHL Hockey

The Minnesota Wild will continue their playoff push when they visit the St. Louis Blues on Thursday.

The Wild have gone 4-2-1 in their last seven games to solidify their position in the West Division. They sit in third place, two points behind the Vegas Golden Knights and six points back of the first-place Colorado Avalanche.

They are 10 points ahead of the fifth-place Blues heading into back-to-back games against them at St. Louis. The Wild won their only previous game against the Blues this season 2-0 on March 25.

Forwards Kevin Fiala (five goals, six assists in his last seven games) and Kirill Kaprizov (six goals in seven games) have sparked this latest Wild surge.

“They’re special players,” Wild captain Jared Spurgeon said. “When they get that confidence and opportunities to play offense, they’re going to create stuff. But it’s not just those two guys. I thought all four lines were creating and making plays. I think we have a very underrated, skilled group.”

Wild coach Dean Evason has welcomed Fiala’s offense, but he has been happier about the improvement in his overall game.

“We also need him to not turn pucks over and play a strong defensive game,” Evason said. “You can’t play just an offensive game in this league, it’s too good. We’re very pleased with how he played in tonight’s hockey game and it’s been coming.”

The Blues snapped a 0-6-1 winless streak by defeating the Golden Knights 3-1 on Wednesday. That was just their 10th victory in their last 29 games.

“It’s not always going to be perfect,” Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington said after making 50 saves Wednesday. “It’s how you respond to adversity or just finding more digging deep inside. We needed a little more. We played a great game tonight. We’ve just got to keep building off that.”

Binnington earned his first victory since March 19. Since Feb. 18, he had gone 2-8-3 with a 3.17 goals-against average and .889 save percentage until beating the Golden Knights.

Rookie Ville Husso started the previous two games in goal as coach Craig Berube challenged Binnington to regain his swagger.

“Swagger is a great way to talk about ‘Binner,'” Blues defenseman Jake Walman said. “He always carries himself with swag. All throughout the dressing room he gets the boys going, he’s a rock back there. He played great tonight, and I think he’s one of the best goalies in the league.”

The Blues have also been struggling offensively. Vladimir Tarasenko scored just his third goal in 15 games Wednesday.

Brayden Schenn (13 games without a goal), Jaden Schwartz (two goals in 24 games), Zach Sanford (no goals, one assist in 11 games) and Jordan Kyrou (no goals, one assist in eight games) are all slumping as well.

Berube scratched winger Mike Hoffman (one goal in his last eight games) for the second time. Hoffman, who signed a one-year, $4 million free-agent contract for this season, has become the subject of speculation with the NHL trade deadline looming on Monday.

“It’s just I made a decision to put Sammy Blais in, and I made a decision to take Hoffman out,” Berube said. “That’s it.”

Meanwhile the Wild have regained wingers Zach Parise (COVID-19 protocol) and Mats Zuccarello (lower-body injury). Parise missed seven games and Zuccarello missed two.

–Field Level Media

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