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Mar 22, 2024 3:28 pm

Blues, Wild jockey for position in afternoon encounter

St. Louis Blues

The St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild will try to pick up two crucial points in their pursuit of the playoffs when they face off Saturday afternoon in St. Paul, Minn.

St. Louis (37-30-3, 77 points) enters the game as the first team on the outside of a wild-card berth in the Western Conference. The Blues are chasing the reigning Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights, who have 81 points and sit in the final wild-card spot for now.

Minnesota (34-28-8, 76 points) is right on St. Louis’ heels. A regulation-time win would vault the Wild over the Blues in the standings.

Both teams are embracing the high-stakes matchup with 12 games to play.

“Every game for us is important on the way out,” Blues forward Brandon Saad said. “For us, it’s just focusing on one night at a time. Anytime we can win and gain points, it gives us a good feeling in here. It’s been fun as of late.”

The Blues are coming off a 5-2 win on the road against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. Jake Neighbours scored two goals, Jordan Kyrou collected one goal and two assists and Saad had one of each.

St. Louis, which improved to 5-1-0 in its past six games, will look to stay hot in Minnesota.

The Wild also have played well, posting a 4-0-1 record in a five-game stretch before dropping a 6-0 decision to the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday.

Marc-Andre Fleury surrendered five goals on 16 shots before he was replaced in the second period. Filip Gustavsson turned aside 10 of 11 shots in relief.

Wild defenseman Zach Bogosian said Saturday offered an opportunity to start fresh.

“It’s tough, but we’ve been clawing,” Bogosian said. “We’re right there. We can’t lose belief. We’ve played some good hockey lately.”

Fleury could get another chance in net to try to show that his last start was a fluke. The former Vezina Trophy recipient is 16-12-4 with a 2.79 goals-against average and .902 save percentage on the season.

Fleury has faced the Blues 27 times in his career. He is 11-13-3 with a 2.76 GAA and a .912 save percentage in those games.

Gustavsson would start if the Wild opt to give Fleury a game off after his recent struggles. Gustavsson is 18-15-4 with a 3.15 GAA and an .897 save percentage.

In three career games against St. Louis, Gustavsson is 2-1-0 with a 2.05 GAA and a .931 save percentage.

As for the Blues, Jordan Binnington is the expected starter in net. He is 24-19-3 with a 2.83 GAA and a .912 save percentage this season.

Binnington, 30, is 9-4-1 with a 2.62 GAA and a .910 save percentage in 15 career games against Minnesota.

Backup netminder Joel Hofer is 13-11-0 with a 2.73 GAA and a .916 save percentage for the Blues. Hofer, 23, has yet to face the Wild in his career.

Minnesota is 18-12-4 at home. St. Louis is 16-18-2 on the road.

–Field Level Media

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