Series (Game 4 of 4)

Minnesota leads 3-1

Game 1: Tuesday, January 30th
Game 2: Sunday, February 18th
Game 3: Thursday, March 22nd
Game 4: Saturday, April 7th

Blues 1

(34-35-13, 81 pts)

Wild 5

(48-26-8, 104 pts)

8:00 PM ET, April 7, 2007

Xcel Energy Center, Saint Paul, Minnesota

1 2 3 T
STL 0 1 01
MIN 2 1 25

N. Backstrom (Wild - G): Saves: 24, Save Pct.: .960

M. Gaborik (Wild - RW): Goals: 0, Assists: 2

W. Smith (Wild - C): Goals: 2, Assists: 0

Blues-Wild Preview


The Minnesota Wild are heading to the playoffs for the first time since 2003, and a third straight shutout would add some momentum.

The Wild look to continue their strong defensive play when they host the St. Louis Blues on Saturday in the season finale for both teams.

Minnesota (47-26-8) is coming off back-to-back shutouts over Edmonton on Tuesday and Thursday, both by a 3-0 margin. Rookie goaltender Niklas Backstrom was in net for both wins and has five shutouts this season -- tying the single-season franchise record set by current Oilers netminder Dwayne Roloson in 2001-02.

Backstrom is 9-0-1 with a 1.27 goals-against average in his last 11 starts, including a 5-1 win over the Blues on March 22.

"He's been steady," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. "The guys have a lot of confidence in him."

The Wild have gone 11-2-1 in their last 14 games to earn their first trip back to the playoffs since 2002-03 when they made a surprising run to the Western Conference finals, where they were swept by Anaheim.

Minnesota is seventh in the conference and could get a first-round rematch with the Ducks, who are second, but Wild right wing Marian Gaborik said this year's squad is more dangerous.

"We have a better team than then, you know?" said Gaborik, the Wild's all-time leading scorer. "We can play as a team like we did then. Hopefully we can work as hard as we did and good things will happen."

Minnesota still has a chance to capture its first division title. The Wild trail Vancouver by one point in the Northwest Division, but the Canucks have a game in hand, so Minnesota needs to win Saturday and hope Vancouver loses at San Jose and Phoenix.

Gaborik, who has 18 points in his last 13 games, scored his 30th goal Thursday. He has a nine-game point streak versus the Blues (34-34-13) with six goals and nine assists in that span.

Minnesota's leading scorer, Pavol Demitra, has 14 points in seven career meetings with St. Louis, but is questionable for this game after missing Thursday's contest with a strained leg muscle.

The Wild have won two of three games between the teams this season and holds a 7-1-1 advantage in the last nine matchups including five straight at home. Minnesota is 28-7-5 at the Xcel Energy Center this season.

St. Louis fell 4-1 to Nashville on Thursday after a 3-0-1 stretch.

The Blues, who will miss the playoffs for the second straight year, allowed a goal just 11 seconds into the game and coach Andy Murray was forced to call a timeout less than three minutes in.

"We thought they were flying, and we weren't," Murray said. "There is no sense waiting till the last minute to call your timeout."

Jay McClement assisted on Christian Backman's goal Thursday to extend his point streak to a career-high six games with one goal and five assists in that span.