Wild warm-up: Minnesota vs. St. Louis

The Wild Warmup is presented by Bryant Heating and Cooling

MINNEAPOLIS – When the St. Louis Wild and Blues drop the puck on Saturday night at the Discover Winter Classic 2022 at Target Field, Wild coach Dean Evason is the first to admit it won’t be just another game.

It will be a game, however, and the first in quite a while for Minnesota, which has been inactive for almost two weeks due to the Christmas holidays and a series of COVID-19-related postponements.

The fact that the game will take place outdoors, across town and in expected freezing conditions? This only adds to the intrigue.

When the NHL originally planned for these two clubs to play on New Years Day 2021, they could never have predicted a global pandemic that would have delayed this collision for a full year.

But when the Wild and Blues first play this season on Saturday night, it will feature the top two teams in the Central Division and two of the top three teams in the Western Conference.

“We don’t care who, when, where we play,” said Wild coach Dean Evason. “When the puck is released we play, we play the same way and we play hard. No matter. Yes, we have a different environment. Use it. It’s the same thing. When the puck is dropped, it’s hockey. You still play your butt. You’re still competing 1 on 1 against this guy in front of you. ”

Minnesota ended their 2021 schedule with a four-game losing streak, but haven’t played since a Dec. 20 loss in Dallas. The long hiatus allowed the Wild to correct some of the negative tendencies that coach Dean Evason was starting to see in the team’s play.

Among them was an affinity for too much east-west and not enough north-south play, which is the bread and butter of the Wild, and what he did best during his eight-game winning streak. .

“We’ve had a lot of training time and I think it was much needed,” said the Wild forward. Marcus Foligno. “The practice time was much needed and the guys did a great job putting it to good use.”

In terms of roster, the Wild will be deprived of at least two key contributors, as captain Jared spurgeon and center man Joel Eriksson Ek stay outside with injuries.

The hope is that the defender Jonas Brodin is able to return after spending the last few days on the COVID-19 protocol list. Following the NHL’s change to the length of quarantine positive players are to quarantine earlier this week, Brodin has gone from completely to a question mark.

Evason and the Wild are certainly hoping Brodin is available, and if he is, that would be a huge addition to his lineup which is already without a big chunk in Spurgeon.

Personally, it would be a great experience for Brodin, who is one of only three Wild players to stay in the 2016 roster (Spurgeon, Matt Dumba) who played in the Stadium Series match at TCF Bank Stadium.

Brodin did not play in this game because of an injury.

“I talked to him a bit. He’s pretty disappointed I’m sure because he missed the last one too,” Dumba said. “He was really looking forward to this one. But now, with things changing and the possibility of him coming back, I know, it’s not just him excited, I know everyone to have him like the one of three guys that’s been there for a while – me, him and Spurgy, I want him to play in this one and enjoy it, mostly because he missed the last one. “

With Spurgeon out, the Wild were skating with three assistant captains, including Eriksson Ek. With him also missing the game, veteran Zuccarello carpet will serve as the team’s third replacement and will have an “A” on his jersey.

“We all admire Zuccy and just the experience he has and what he brings every day,” said Foligno. “It’s great to see a guy like that be rewarded.”

St. Louis has played one game the past few days securing a 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night. The victory put the Blues one point ahead of the Wild centrally, although the Wild have two games in hand.

Jordan Kyrou and Vladimir Tarasenko each scored one goal and two assists and Torey Krug had two assists to set the pace for the Blues. Jordan Binnington made 26 saves in his last tune-up before the Winter Classic.

Tarasenko leads the Blues with 13 goals and 32 points. Robert Thomas’ 20 assists are a high for the team.

Binnington is 9-6-3 in 18 starts between the posts with a 2.83 goals-against average and .911 save percentage.

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