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Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs. St. Louis Blues 12/2/17 @ 5:00PM CST at Xcel Energy Center

Minnesota Wild (12-10-3)  27pts  6th in the Central

3.00 Goals For Per Game (13th in the NHL)

3.00 Goals Against Per Game (16th in the NHL)

23.7% Power Play (6th in the NHL)

82.6% Penalty Kill (9th in the NHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #12 Eric Staal ~ 10G  13A = 23pts

2. #16 Jason Zucker ~ 13G 8A = 21pts

3. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 6G 10A = 16pts

4. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 4G 11A = 15pts

5. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 3G 11A = 14pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 18 PIM’s

2. #22 Nino Niederreiter ~ 16 PIM’s

3. #4 Mike Reilly ~ 14 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders:

1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (10-7-0-2)  2.81GAA  .912%SP  3SO

2. #32 Alex Stalock (2-3-0-1)  3.14GAA  .904%SP

 

 

Vs.

 

 

St. Louis Blues (17-8-1)  35pts  2nd in the Central

3.36 Goals For Per Game (7th in the NHL)

2.64 Goals Against Per Game (6th in the NHL)

17.2% Power Play (22nd in the NHL)

77.1% Penalty Kill (25th in the NHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #17 Jaden Schwartz ~ 13G 19A = 32pts

2. #10 Brayden Schenn ~ 10G 20A = 30pts

3. #91 Vladimir Taresenko ~ 12G 16A = 28pts

4. #27 Alex Pietrangelo ~ 7G 13A = 20pts

5. #26 Paul Stastny ~ 6G 14A = 20pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #71 Vladimir Sobotka ~ 24 PIM’s

2. #10 Brayden Schenn ~ 22 PIM’s

3. #9 Scottie Upshall ~ 18 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders:

1. #34 Jake Allen (13-6-0-1)  2.77GAA  .907%SP

2. #40 Carter Hutton (4-1-0-0)  1.59GAA  .946%SP

Lines:

St. Louis Blues

Schwartz~Schenn~Tarasenko

Sobotka~Stastny~Steen

Jaskin~Berglund~Blais

Upshall~Brodziak~Paajarvi

Bouwmeester~Pietrangelo

Edmundson~Parayko

Dunn~Bortuzzo

Allen

Hutton

Minnesota Wild

Foligno~Staal~Niederreiter

Winnik~Koivu~Granlund

Zucker~Coyle~Stewart

Ennis~Cullen~Mitchell

Suter~Brodin

Olofsson~Murphy

Reilly~Dumba

Dubnyk

Stalock

Remember this Mike Yeo moment Wild fans?  The infamous practice tirade where he tore into a team that had been underperforming, challenging them to show some pride and give more effort at practice.  It was seen as a sign of desperation for Yeo, as the team seemed to give up on him.  The team did end up rallying in the 2nd half of that season, and managed to earn their last playoff series victory, a 4-2 series win over St. Louis.  For Yeo it was just one more season in Minnesota as he was relieved of his duties in February of 2016.  Was that a moment to chuckle about or a moment to ponder the current state of the team.

In the wake of an embarrassing loss on Monday to the Jets’, Wild alternate captain Ryan Suter told reporters that half of the team didn’t really try during their 7-2 loss to Winnipeg.  Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau talked about his team needing to do some ‘soul searching.’  We know Boudreau isn’t above tearing into his team if he feels they’re underperforming or their attitude on the ice isn’t what he thinks it should be as we saw from this clip from a few years ago on HBO when he was still coaching with the Washington Capitals.

The Blues are coming off a 4-1 loss to Los Angeles last night.  Carter Hutton got the start against the Kings so I think its pretty obvious who we will see between the pipes this evening.  No doubt they’ll be in an ornery mood but we are catching them in the 2nd night of a back to back.

The Wild did manage to get a win against the Pacific Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday.  However the Wild may have lucked out on some missed opportunities by the Golden Knights.  The Wild have not had that kind of good fortune against the Blues who seem bury just about any prime chance they get against us.  Last week we even saw Kyle Brodziak convert on a shorthanded breakaway.  How many times did we see him finish that play when he was with the Wild?  Not too many.  The Wild will hope to have better luck against the Blues this evening, but more importantly they need to be more disciplined.  Minnesota took too many penalties and put the Blues on the power play far too often.

The top line of ‘Wild killer’ Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko, and Brayden Schenn is one of the best in the NHL, where they are a lethal combination of skill, grit and finishing ability.  No doubt that will be Minnesota’s top priority to try to limit this team’s chances but that’s easier said than done.  The other major challenge will be getting bodies near the Blues’ crease to try to take away the vision of Jake Allen who will probably get the start against the Wild tonight.  The Blues defenseman are big and strong and Minnesota does not match up well strength-wise, but they must get traffic on Allen in order to beat him as they should have learned during the playoffs last spring.

Its not all gloom and doom for the Wild; the team continues to play reasonably well offensively and there are signs Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle are heating up and Jason Zucker continues to be the team’s most consistent goal scorer.  Minnesota does need Mikko Koivu to come out of hibernation where he has gone 16 games without a goal and certainly could use some contributions from its bottom 6.  On Thursday, the Wild used their defenseman to set up a few scoring chances and no doubt they will look to do the same tonight.  Ryan Murphy has looked more and more comfortable and the Wild will no doubt continue to try to play a finesse game against the Blues heavy style.

Devan Dubnyk came up big for the Wild on Thursday and he will likely be given the start this evening.  Rebound control is crucial, but he will need good support from his defense to try to keep the Blues from dominating the middle of the ice like they did last week Saturday.  This is where the recently acquired Nate Prosser might make his debut tonight.  The Elk River, Minnesota-native has been with the Blues all season but has only played one game and no doubt his understanding of the Blues’ systems and player tendencies as well as his physical play could play a pivotal role.

So what are the keys for the Wild if they’re to get a victory against St. Louis?

  1. Get to the middle and protect the middle – The Wild must find a way to get to the middle of the ice to get traffic on Jake Allen and deny him a chance to see the puck, and in that same thought the Wild must do what they can to keep the Blues to the perimeter.  The Blues offense is at its best when its crashing the crease and using its size and strength to overpower its opponents.  The Wild must be strong and do what they can to keep the Blues out of Dubnyk’s kitchen.
  2. Play fast and determined to force penalties – Another way the Wild can limit the Blues is playing fast and moving their feet to draw penalties.  The Wild need to skate with that shoulder down and force the Blues to hold and hook to stop them.  The Blues weakness is their penalty kill and this will help keep some of St. Louis’ more dangerous players off the ice.  After playing and losing last night, putting the Blues on the kill will also help wear them down.
  3. Got to be sharp – Simply put the Wild need Devan Dubnyk to play his best game tonight.  No soft goals, and as long as the team is giving him clear looks at the shooter he better be making the saves if the Wild are to have any chance at all.

What are your thoughts on tonight’s Wild / Blues game?  Share them with us @CreaseAndAssist on Twitter or in the comment selection below!