Blues-Wild Preview

While the St. Louis Blues try to keep the pressure on in the race for Western Conference supremacy, the Minnesota Wild would like to extend their new wild-card lead.

Jori Lehtera played a major role in evening this season series last month. Now he's hoping to return as the Blues look to come away with the decisive fifth meeting.

Vladimir Tarasenko attempts to torment the hosts again Sunday night when St. Louis chases its third straight win and tries to deny Minnesota its longest run in almost a year.

The Blues have had four days off since a 4-3 shootout win at Ottawa moved them into a three-way tie atop the Central Division. With Chicago and Dallas now leading the West by two points, St. Louis will try to keep pace with its seventh win in eight road games.

The Blues (37-20-9), however, have dropped four of their last five trips to Minnesota, including last year's first-round playoff series that the Wild won in six games. They evened this season series Feb. 6 when Lehtera, Paul Stastny and Troy Brouwer each had a goal and an assist in a 4-1 home win.

Stastny has three assists and four points in his three games against the Wild.

With some time off between games, Lehtera said he was "pretty sure" he'd be ready to return following a three-game absence after taking a redirected puck to the face on Feb. 25 against the New York Rangers.

"I feel pretty good," he told the team's official website. "I'm ready to play again."

Tarasenko, who scored his team-high 30th goal against the Senators, should feel good about facing the Wild (31-25-10). The right wing has scored in each of his last four regular-season meetings and has 11 goals in his past 12 versus Minnesota, including playoffs.

St. Louis has totaled eight goals in its back-to-back wins after scoring just four times during a three-game losing streak. The club hopes to keep it going against projected starter Devan Dubnyk, who stopped 30 shots in a 3-2 shootout win at Buffalo on Saturday.

Dubnyk is 4-1-1 with a 1.98 goals-against average in his last six starts against the Blues dating to last year's playoff series. Minnesota's defense continues to carry an offense that has averaged 2.6 goals in its last seven.

David Jones, however, scored his first goal since he was acquired from Calgary at the trade deadline as Minnesota won its fourth straight Saturday.

The Wild, who have made the playoffs three straight years, moved into sole possession of the West's final wild-card spot with the victory and Colorado's loss. They can build a four-point cushion with their first five-game run since March 21-28.

''Every single point is important and we've got to keep getting better and keep building our game,'' said Mikko Koivu, who has found the net in each of the past two games.

Charlie Coyle has three goals in his last two home games and scored twice in the other home meeting with St. Louis. Erik Haula has two goals in the past three matchups overall.

Jake Allen will try to contain Minnesota after allowing five goals on 77 shots in the back-to-back wins. Including playoffs, he owns a 2.19 GAA in 10 career starts.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.