Wild-Blues Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated January 13, 2012
The St. Louis Blues had a four-game winning streak snapped their last time out. They'll need to improve their play against the Minnesota Wild if they want to avoid a second straight defeat. The Blues look to bounce back as they seek their first win in three games this season against the slumping Wild on Saturday night at the Scottrade Center. St. Louis (25-12-6) fell 3-2 in overtime to Vancouver at home Thursday as the Canucks took over the NHL lead. The Blues held a 33-21 advantage in shots and went up 2-1 on Jason Arnott's second goal of the game early in the second period, but couldn't hold on and failed to set a season best for consecutive wins. The Blues lost for just the second time in 11 home games, though they've earned at least a point in each of those contests. "We've got to learn to play with a lead," said Arnott, who has goals in three straight games. "It hasn't been our positive suit this year, but we're getting better at it. Hopefully it continues, we learn from this and move on." St. Louis, which was coming off back-to-back shutouts, had its scoreless streak snapped at 148 minutes, 54 seconds. The Blues dropped one point behind Chicago for the Central Division lead. They'll be in danger of falling further behind if they again fail to break through against Minnesota. The Wild won 2-1 on Nov. 5 and 3-2 in a shootout Nov. 19, with both games played in St. Paul. St. Louis has gone 0-2-1 in the last three meetings and 2-4-3 in the previous nine. The Blues have dropped two straight at home in the series, both in shootouts. However, St. Louis opened a five-game homestand Thursday. The club owns the NHL's best home record at 17-3-3. Plus, they may be catching the Wild (22-16-6) at a better time. Minnesota's slide continued Thursday with a 5-2 loss to the Blackhawks, leaving the club at 2-9-3 in its last 14. The Wild's Devin Setoguchi opened the scoring at 6:28 of the first period, but Minnesota recorded two or fewer goals for the 11th time in that 14-game span. Making matters worse was an illness that kept top goaltender Niklas Backstrom out and also affected backup Josh Harding, who gave up four goals on 21 shots. "There's no excuse, none whatsoever. Health had nothing to do with the way I played out there," Harding said. "It was just one of those nights when I was pretty brutal." It's uncertain who will start in net for the Wild on Saturday. Backstrom has gone 1-5-0 with a 3.54 goals-against average in his last six games, and he stopped 41 of 47 shots in a 6-3 home loss to the Blues on March 26 in his last matchup with them. Harding could get the nod again in part because of his 6-2-0 record and 1.70 GAA in 10 career games versus St. Louis. The Blues should get some help up front Saturday from Alex Steen, who has missed seven games with concussion-like symptoms but is expected back for this contest. Steen has 13 goals, 11 assists and is a team-best plus-20 in 36 games this season. St. Louis goalie Brian Elliott, named an All-Star on Thursday, was pulled after allowing three goals on 12 shots in his only game versus Minnesota, a 5-3 loss while with Ottawa on Feb. 14, 2009. However, he's 9-1-1 with a 1.36 GAA and four shutouts on home ice in 2011-12. Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has a goal and seven assists during a career-best five-game point streak.
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