The St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild finally will face off for the first time this season Thursday night in Saint Paul, Minn.
Due to the quirks of original schedule and pandemic-prompted revisions, the two West Division teams have avoided each other to date. The Thursday contest will be the first of eight games between the Blues and Wild over the next five weeks.
The teams were due to meet Feb. 9 and Feb. 11 in Minnesota, but the games were postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak with the Wild.
The fourth-place Blues already concluded their series against the seventh-place San Jose Sharks with a 5-1-2 mark. Now they will play extensively against the top three teams in the West: the Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota.
“It’s all about us right now and working on our game,” Blues defenseman Vince Dunn said. “It’s gonna get really hard as we approach the playoffs, and we want to give ourselves the best chance of getting in there and putting ourselves in a good seed.
“These teams are very good. Everyone’s playing good hockey right now, so it’s about us and making sure our game’s a lot better.”
The Blues started their season 7-2-1, but they have sputtered since then, going 9-9-4 in the past 22 games.
The Wild have had the opposite experience. After starting the season 6-6-0, Minnesota has gone 14-4-1 to climb into third place.
The Wild produced seven victories in their past nine games — although the two losses came by a combined score of 11-1 against the Avalanche.
Minnesota edged the last-place Anaheim Ducks 3-2 Wednesday in Saint Paul.
“It was not a pretty game,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “I’ve seen some not-so pretty games in this league, and that one wasn’t (pretty).
“It’s a lot to do with what we did and how we played. You never want to obviously complain about two points, but there’s a lot of things that we can do better.”
Wild captain Jared Spurgeon, who scored twice against the Ducks, believes the team will need to play better against the Blues.
“We didn’t play our best, but the good thing is we know that,” Spurgeon said. “We’re not sitting here saying we played a great game. We have a big test (Thursday), and we have to get ready for that one.”
Since Cam Talbot played in goal against the Ducks, the Wild likely will start Kaapo Kahkonen (12-5-0, 2.25 goals-against average) against the Blues.
The Wild put winger Zach Parise on the COVID-19 protocol list Wednesday. Winger Marcus Foligno is sidelined by an undisclosed injury, but defenseman Matt Dumba may return from his lower-body injury to face St. Louis.
The Blues have regained key forwards Vladimir Tarasenko (shoulder surgery), Jaden Schwartz (upper-body injury) and Robert Thomas (broken thumb) from the injured list this month.
However, forward Oskar Sundqvist sustained a season-ending knee injury last week, and bulwark defenseman Colton Parayko (back injury) has just resumed light skating.
–Field Level Media