Wild host sliding Blues in potential playoff preview
(SportsNetwork.com) - The St. Louis Blues will try to snap their longest losing streak of the season and keep their chances at the top seed in the Western Conference alive on Thursday night when they visit the playoff-bound Minnesota Wild.
The Blues have lost three in a row for the first time this season, putting them a point back of the Anaheim Ducks for the most in the conference. St. Louis does have a game in hand over idle Anaheim.
However, the Blues' current skid also has them just two points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche for first place in the Central Division with three games to play for both teams. The Avs are in action on Thursday as well as they visit the Vancouver Canucks.
St. Louis' offensive funk continued with Tuesday's 4-1 setback to the Washington Capitals. It marked the sixth straight game that the Blues were held to a pair of goals or fewer.
"The last few we haven't been scoring but we've had guys scoring all year," said Blues forward Alexander Steen, who returned from a three-game absence caused by an upper-body injury and leads the club with 33 goals.
While Steen doesn't sound too worried, the Blues will be without another key offensive contributor in David Backes, who suffered a lower-body injury versus the Capitals. He traveled with the club to Minnesota, but won't play tonight and his status for Friday's road contest with the Dallas Stars is unknown.
Backes is second on the Blues with 27 goals and third in points with 57.
Ryan Miller gave up four goals on 22 shots versus the Capitals and will try to help St. Louis avoid posting its longest losing streak since a five-game slide from Feb. 1-11 of last year. Miller is 4-2-0 with a 2.08 goals against average and one shutout in six previous meetings with the Wild.
Minnesota would probably like to avoid a first-round playoff matchup with St. Louis, though that is who the Wild would play if the season ended today. The Wild are locked into the first of two wild card spots after beating the Boston Bruins 4-3 in a shootout on Tuesday.
The Wild are 5-0-1 in their last six, with their last regulation setback coming on March 27 with a 5-1 defeat in St. Louis. T.J. Oshie highlighted the Blues' victory with his first career hat trick, while Miller stopped 27-of-28 shots faced.
The Blues have won all four of their previous meetings with the Wild this season and nine straight overall. The Wild have not won in this series since a home victory on Nov. 19, 2011, dropping four straight as the host since.
Minnesota, though, could make a statement tonight with a victory and is coming off a hard-fought win over the NHL-leading Bruins. Defenseman Ryan Suter netted a game-tying goal with 1:05 remaining in regulation, while Mikko Koivu had the lone shootout tally.
Koivu matched an NHL record with his 15th game-winning shootout tally and also had a pair of assists on regulation. Jason Pominville tallied twice and Ilya Bryzgalov posted 21 saves.
"We played ourselves into the playoffs the way that you want to. It says a lot about the guys in here, and hopefully we can keep this thing going here," Suter said.
Bryzgalov, who was coming off back-to-back shutouts, improved to 7-0-3 with a 1.78 goals against average and .923 save percentage since being acquired from the Edmonton Oilers. He is 6-11-2 with a 3.14 GAA and two shutouts lifetime versus the Blues.
Miller is 10-5-1 with a 2.27 GAA and .910 save percentage in 16 starts since the Blues acquired him from the Buffalo Sabres.
04/10 11:19:04 ET