Minnesota (2-6-0) at St. Louis (3-3-1)http://sports.yahoo.com/nhl/preview?gid=2009102319
Game info: 7:00 pm Fri Oct 23, 2009
By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN, STATS Senior Writer
A road-heavy early schedule has taken its toll on the Minnesota Wild.
The Western Conference-worst Wild look to avoid a seventh defeat in as many road games this season Thursday night when they take on the St. Louis Blues.
Minnesota (2-6-0), adjusting to a new system under first-year coach Todd Richards, already has played six road games and lost them all while getting outscored 22-11.
The Wild have matched their worst road losing streak from all of last season and now look to avoid recording their longest since a franchise-record 11 straight road defeats from Nov. 20, 2006-Jan. 9, 2007.
They lost both of their games in St. Louis in 2008-09 and Niklas Backstrom(notes) was in net each time, though he went on to become a Vezina Trophy finalist with a 2.33 goals-against average. He’s 0-3 with a 5.18 GAA in three starts at Scottrade Center, getting pulled after two periods in two of them.
Backup Josh Harding(notes) has won his only two starts in St. Louis and has a 0.74 GAA in four career appearances there. However, he’s given up 11 goals in two starts this season.
St. Louis (3-3-1) went 3-1 against the Wild last season behind right wing Brad Boyes(notes), who had three goals and two assists in the Blues’ three victories.
This will be Minnesota’s first road game since Mikko Koivu(notes) was named captain Tuesday. The move seemed to pay dividends Wednesday as the Wild ended their five-game skid, as Koivu scored the tying goal with 4:51 left in regulation and the only goal in the shootout of a 3-2 victory over Colorado.
“He leads by example. He battles and competes,” Richards said. “He’s not perfect by any means, but his hard work and his effort makes up for a lot of the mistakes that happen in a game, whether it’s by him or his teammates.”
The Wild believe they will get better as they continue trying to jell. Offseason acquisition Martin Havlat(notes) returned from a two-game absence because of a strained groin muscle and the Wild also welcomed right wing Chuck Kobasew(notes) to the lineup. Kobasew was acquired in a trade with Boston on Sunday.
“You wonder if you’ll ever get over the hump, so hopefully this does give the guys some confidence as far as finding ways to win games,” Richards said.
The Blues are back home after a dismal end to a three-game road trip. They split the first two games before falling behind by four goals midway through a 5-1 loss at Pittsburgh on Tuesday.
Three nights earlier, St. Louis was dominant in a 5-0 victory at Anaheim.
“For us not to be ready to play the defending Stanley Cup champions is unacceptable,” Blues goalie Chris Mason(notes) said. “We come off a good second and third period in Anaheim against a very good team. I don’t know if we’re getting a little ahead of ourselves and getting a little cocky and thinking that it should be easier than it really is. … To come out like we did against these guys, this is what’s going to happen.”
The Blues held a team meeting upon returning home and no doubt are looking for more from Boyes, who has one goal this season. Boyes led St. Louis in that department each of the last two seasons and had 33 in 2008-09.