With second place in sight, Wild battle Blues in two-game set

NHL Hockey

The Minnesota Wild will continue their chase for second place in the West Division when they visit the St. Louis Blues Wednesday.

The third-place Wild (35-14-5, 75 points) still have a chance to catch the Colorado Avalanche (37-13-4, 78 points) for home-ice advantage in the first playoff round. Minnesota will play back-to-back games against the Blues.

The Avalanche also have two games to play, at home against the Los Angeles Kings.

“We took care of business this weekend, gave ourselves a chance at home ice in the playoffs, and then see where the chips fall with Colorado’s games moving forward,” Wild forward Nick Bonino said. “But we’ll just try to handle what we can and see if we have home ice. That’s something we’d really like.”

Meanwhile the fourth-place Blues (25-20-9, 59 points) are preparing to face whichever team wins the division. The Vegas Golden Knights (39-14-2, 80 points) have just one game left as they try to hang onto first place.

Blues coach Craig Berube figures either team would offer the same sort of challenge.

“We’ve played these guys all year a lot,” Berube said. “So we know both teams very well. It’s not like we’re gonna get surprised by anything. … We know what we gotta do and what they’re gonna do.

After the Blues pulled out a lackluster 2-1 overtime road victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday, Berube was looking forward to a more vigorous challenge against the Wild.

“I think the Minny games will mean more,” Berube said. “I don’t know yet what they’re fighting for. Second place maybe if they get it. So I think those games will have more energy and emotion.”

Wild coach Dean Evason will also be looking for more juice from his team. The Wild earned consecutive 4-3 overtime victories over the last-place Anaheim Ducks last Friday and Saturday, but Evason saw much room for improvement.

Facing the Blues should help the Wild refocus.

“They’re a playoff team,” Bonino said. “No better way to get ready for the playoffs than to play a team that won the Cup a couple years ago.”

The Wild went 2-2-2 in their first six games against the Blues this season. During a three-game set at home April 28 to May 1, they went 1-1-1.

The Blues have kept Wild winger Kirill Kaprizov somewhat in check, holding him to two goals and one assist in those six games. Kaprizov has 48 points in his other 48 games, and he has scored 11 goals in his last 12 games overall.

“Every time he gets the puck, you can feel it in the arena,” Wild forward Joel Eriksson Ek said. “It’s amazing the things he does. He’s just creating all the time, and it doesn’t really matter who’s close to him.”

The Blues got key defenseman Torey Krug back after he missed five games with an upper-body injury, but wingers Vladimir Tarasenko (lower-body injury) and Sammy Blais (upper-body injury) are questionable for these games. So are defensemen Vince Dunn (upper-body injury) and Jake Walman (COVID-19 protocols).

–Field Level Media

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