Wild-Blues Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 27, 2013
The St. Louis Blues have proven to be a force out of the gate. While the Minnesota Wild also started strong, they've since taken a couple of steps back. The Blues look to keep rolling Sunday night as they host a Wild team hoping to avoid a third consecutive defeat. Two nights after beating Nashville 3-0, St. Louis (4-1-0) matched its best start since 2008-09 with Saturday's 4-3 win at Dallas. Jaroslav Halak made 20 saves to earn his third win and David Perron scored his first two goals to go along with an assist. "I thought Perron's really starting to get engaged," coach Ken Hitchcock said. "That's nice to see. I thought Perron was head and shoulders the best player on the ice. It's his tenacity on the puck, for the puck, with the puck. He was a major factor." Hitchcock was also impressed with Wade Redden, who skating in just his second NHL game after two years in the minors, gave the Blues a 1-0 lead 5:31 into the opening period. It was his first NHL goal since March 18, 2010, when he scored for the New York Rangers against the Blues. "That's a really good sign for us," Hitchcock said. Despite the encouraging performances by Perron and Redden, it wasn't all smooth sailing for the Blues. They were outshot 11-10 over the final 20 minutes after holding a 22-12 edge over the first two periods. "I think we had them buried and we let them up off the mat," Hitchcock told the league's official website. "If we play like this (Sunday) night in the third period, we're going to lose by about six." The Blues now try for their best start since winning seven of their first eight games in 1997-98 while also adding to the Wild's woes. Minnesota (2-2-0) won its first two games before dropping its last two, 3-1 to Nashville on Tuesday and 5-3 at Detroit three nights later. "This is what we talked about at the beginning of the year as far as us taking the next step - good teams finding ways to win those games," second-year coach Mike Yeo said. "We've gotta come in here (Sunday) and play a really good team and we gotta find a way to win." Prized free-agent signing Zach Parise scored twice against the Red Wings but Josh Harding stopped just 22 of 27 shots. Minnesota has gone 1 for 14 (7.1 percent) on the man advantage over its last three games, scoring once in eight chances Friday. "I'm a big believer as long as you're getting chances, sooner or later you'll get success scoring goals as well," captain Mikko Koivu said. "It's not gonna get easy, but it will get easier when you get goals and then you get that confidence - but you have to earn it, individually and as a team, and obviously we're trying to do that." The Wild could have a hard time generating offense against the Blues, who've killed all eight penalties while outscoring opponents 9-0 in winning their first two home games. Halak has made a combined 27 saves while starting both those contests, but Brian Elliott is expected to be in goal Sunday. Elliott, 1-1-0 with a 1.98 goals-against average, went 14-3-3 at home last season while compiling an NHL-leading 1.53 GAA among goaltenders with at least 20 starts. Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom is 0-4-0 with a 4.24 GAA lifetime at St. Louis, but is expected to be between the pipes for this one. Harding started all four games versus the Blues last season, and went 2-1-1 with a 2.16 GAA. The Blues are 6-0-2 at home against the Wild since the start of 2008-09.
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