NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Thursday, March 27th (All times Eastern)
Minnesota Wild (37-25-11) at St. Louis Blues (49-16-7), 8 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The NHL-leading St. Louis Blues look to extend a nine- game home point streak on Thursday night when they take on the Minnesota Wild in the first of five in a row as the hosting club.
The Blues have the inside track on claiming their first Presidents' Trophy since 1999-2000. With 105 points, they are one up on the Boston Bruins with 10 games to play for both teams.
St. Louis also owns a two-point edge on the San Jose Sharks for the top seed in the Western Conference with two games in hand, and is six points ahead of the Chicago Blackhawks for first place in the Central Division.
Strong play at home has helped key the Blues, who have not lost in regulation as the host since Jan. 18. They are 7-0-2 since and 25-5-4 at home overall this season.
St. Louis finished up a three-game road trip with a second straight win on Tuesday, besting the Toronto Maple Leafs 5-3 on the strength of David Backes' second career hat trick.
Backes ran his season goal total to 27, second on the club.
"I think he doesn't give himself enough credit for how good of a 200-foot player he is," said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock about Backes. "I think that's one of the things that has really evolved in his game now. He's a really good 200-foot player. He's not just a checker, he's a guy that can play in both ends of the rink."
Alexander Steen and T.J. Oshie each posted a goal and two assists in the Blues' 10th victory in 13 games this month. The duo are tied for the club lead in points with 57, while Steen potted his career-high 31st goal of the season.
Ryan Miller made 22 saves to improve to 8-2-1 with a 2.12 goals against average in 11 starts since being acquired by St. Louis. He is 3-2-0 lifetime versus the Wild with a 2.30 GAA and is expected to start tonight.
Miller will try to extend the Blues' eight-game winning streak over the Wild, a span that includes three victories this season.
St. Louis notched a 3-0 victory in the lone previous encounter this season at home back on Nov. 25 and has won four straight and eight of the past 10 as the host in this series.
Like the Blues, the Wild control their destiny as they seek a second straight playoff berth. They have 85 points on the season, giving the club a six-point edge for one of the two wild card spots in the West.
Minnesota, though, is 3-4-4 in its last 11 games and lost a third straight contest at home with a 5-2 setback to the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night.
Charlie Coyle scored in the first period for the Wild and Nino Niederreiter netted one in the third frame.
Minnesota, though, struggled in net, with starter Darcy Kuemper yielding three goals on 12 shots through two periods. Ilya Bryzgalov wasn't much sharper in a period of relief, allowing two goals on seven shots faced.
"I'm not saying that we can't be any better between the pipes, but at the same time, there are some quality chances that we're giving up," said Wild head coach Mike Yeo.
Minnesota will begin a four-game road trip tonight and is 14-16-6 as the guest. It is unknown if the rookie Kuemper will make his first career start versus the Blues or if Bryzgalov will get the start. He is 6-11-2 with a 3.14 GAA lifetime against St. Louis.
03/27 10:51:54 ET