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Wild, banged-up Blues turn their focus to defense

Dec 21, 2022; Anaheim, California, USA;  Minnesota Wild left wing Marcus Foligno (17) controls the puck during the first period against the Anaheim Ducks at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues both will look to regain their defensive edge when they meet in St. Paul, Minn., on Sunday night.

The Wild lost 6-5 in overtime at Buffalo on Saturday night while the Blues fell 5-4 at Montreal.

“We scored some goals, but we certainly can’t play that way defensively and expect to win games,” Wild coach Dean Evason said.

“We just have to be better in certain situations and clean that up,” Blues coach Craig Berube said. “We are scoring enough goals. On the other side of it, we have to protect our net better than we have been.”

The Wild defeated the Blues 5-2 in St. Louis on Dec. 31, and Minnesota would like to repeat that performance in the rematch on its home ice.

“I expect more of the kind of game that we had in St. Louis against St. Louis tomorrow, and (we) just have to be a little more sharp at the start of the puck,” Wild forward Marcus Foligno told Bally Sports North.

The Wild again will play without forward Mats Zuccarello, who has 40 points in 37 games, due to an upper-body injury. Matt Boldy started in Zuccarello’s spot on the top line Saturday, and Brandon Duhaime stepped into Boldy’s usual spot with Freddy Gaudreau and Ryan Hartman and scored a goal.

“We just want guys to play their own game, obviously, and play the game how we do and how we play as a group,” Evason said. “For sure, (Zuccarello’s) a big part of our offensive scheme, power play.”

After starting at Buffalo, Wild goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury left the team for a few days to tend to a personal matter. Filip Gustavsson stayed home due to illness.

No. 3 goaltender Zane McIntyre backed up Fleury on Saturday and could start against the Blues if Gustavsson can’t go. McIntyre has played in eight career NHL games (three starts), most recently with the Boston Bruins on Feb. 4, 2017.

He played in 15 games this season with the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League.

Jordan Binnington started his sixth straight game Saturday, so Thomas Greiss (4-5-0, 3.55 GAA) is likely to get the start in goal against the Wild.

Before hitting the road, the Blues added key forwards Vladimir Tarasenko (hand) and Ryan O’Reilly (foot) to an injury list that also includes forward Logan Brown and defensemen Torey Krug, Marco Scandella and Scott Perunovich.

“Injuries are what they are,” Berube said. “And like I said, you’re giving other people opportunities, and they gotta welcome that challenge and continue to step up and do the job.”

The Blues added defensemen Nick Leddy and Robert Bortuzzo to their injury list Saturday. Leddy sat out against the Canadiens, giving Steven Santini his first chance of the season, then Bortuzzo was hurt in the first period of the game.

Santini arrived from Springfield of the AHL earlier in the week.

“He’s played for us before,” Berube said. “He defends, and a competitive guy. I think that’s his best attribute. He’s gonna be simple with the puck. But he’s gonna give you everything he’s got every shift.”

The Blues also recalled Tyler Tucker from the AHL, so he could start against the Wild if neither Leddy nor Bortuzzo can play.

–Field Level Media