Can St. Louis Blues End 2015 on a Good Note Against Minnesota Wild?


As the St. Louis Blues play their last game of the calendar year, can they defeat the Minnesota Wild for the second time this season?

As they host a New Year’s Eve game that will undoubtedly have to compete for attention with fireworks displays and a College Football Playoff matchup between Alabama and Michigan State, the St. Louis Blues will attempt to end 2015 on a good note as they host the division rival Minnesota Wild. The Blues, who are looking for their second straight win and have won six of their past eight, will be facing the Wild for the third time this season.

The Blues defeated the Wild for the first time in a while on Halloween, having lost to Minnesota in the teams’ past three meetings (the last two games of the first-round postseason series between the teams last year, and their first regular season matchup on October 10). With a severely depleted lineup that lacked Vladimir Tarasenko, Kevin Shattenkirk, Paul Stastny, and Jaden Schwartz and prominently featured fill-ins Scott Gomez and Ty Rattie, the Blues beat the Wild in a battle of physicality and clinched the win with an overtime goal from David Backes, his second of the night.

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With the Blues now back at nearly-full strength, they’ll need to continue to play a physical, spirited game against a Wild team that is always tough. Minnesota consistently brings it on the boards against the Blues and has injured players such as T.J. Oshie, Carl Gunnarsson, Jori Lehtera, and Robby Fabbri in recent seasons.

The Wild won’t exactly be at their peak coming into Thursday’s game. The team’s most highly-regarded forward, Zach Parise, will miss the game with a concussion. Their backup goalie, Darcy Kuemper, is also dealing with a concussion, and they apparently have no desire to use third-stringer Niklas Backstrom, who they’ve carried on the roster for the past year despite not using him in a game since January 13. Therefore, Devan Dubnyk will start in St. Louis, even though he’s been dealing with a wrist injury, a pressure cut that required eight stitches on Sunday.

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It may not help the matters that the Wild, who are as fresh off the distracting holiday break as the rest of the league, held an outdoor practice on Tuesday to prepare for their Stadium Series matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks at TCF Bank Stadium on February 21. They got back to the normal routine on Wednesday morning, but the Wild will have to get back in the mindset for an in-division away game quickly after straying from the regular schedule Tuesday.

Coach Ken Hitchcock told the media on Wednesday that he expected to roll with the same lineup that he utilized for Tuesday’s win over Nashville, so that will leave little drama as far as roster decisions are concerned for Thursday’s game. That will leave Scottie Upshall, who had played in 12 straight games prior to being scratched on Tuesday, in the press box for the second straight game. He’ll be joined by defenseman Joel Edmundson, who will sit for a fourth straight game. Hitchcock recently said that a decision would be made soon on the 22-year-old rookie’s immediate future at the NHL level, so with Robert Bortuzzo dressing ahead of him for yet another game, it certainly seems as if we have a solid indication as to which way that decision may be headed.

Next: Arch Awards: Mark Barron was St. Louis's Best Under-the-Radar Performer During 2015

Here’s how the New Year’s Eve lineup is expected to look:

Magnus PaajarviPaul StastnyVladimir Tarasenko

Alexander Steen-David BackesTroy Brouwer

Robby FabbriJori LehteraDmitrij Jaskin

Jordan CaronKyle BrodziakRyan Reaves

Jay BouwmeesterAlex Pietrangelo

Colton ParaykoKevin Shattenkirk

Carl GunnarssonRobert Bortuzzo

Jake Allen