The St. Louis Blues will look to sweep a series for the sixth time in franchise history in their Western Conference First Round series of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Minnesota Wild at Scottrade Center on Wednesday.
The Blues won identical 2-1 games on the road in Minnesota, in overtime on a Joel Edmundson game-winner in Game 1 and a Jaden Schwartz game-winning goal with 2:27 remaining in regulation to give St. Louis its third 2-0 series lead in franchise history doing so on the road; they went on to sweep the previous two series in 1993 against the Chicago Blackhawks and 2001 against the Dallas Stars.
So what's the best way to try and focus on the task at hand while trying to close out a series in four games?
"If we play the way we've been playing, if we play our game, we feel like we can continue to win," Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said. "It sounds simple. At the same time, we've got a team on the ropes and we've got to make sure we take advantage of that and expect their best game."
Those are the words from coach Mike Yeo on Tuesday and the ones he reiterated again on Wednesday.
In other words, treat it like another game.
"Same way we've approached the other games," Yeo said. "We're not fools, we know what's at stake here, but we come into this game, we're not focused on that, we're focused on our opponent, on expecting a very, very strong game from them, the same way we have every other game. Expecting a hard game and then the preparation of what we need to make sure we're on top of our game. That's our mindset right now. And then what you do is make sure you have the confidence and belief that you do the right things and you'll get rewarded."
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Center Paul Stastny (foot) took part in the morning skate but Yeo said he will not play tonight and the Blues will go with the same lineup, which means Alexander Steen, who's been nursing a lower-body injury of his own, will play.
Stastny has skated with the team the past two days and has worked out on and off the ice on his own and has looked good in both skates.
Steen has not skated the past two days but had a goal and assist in Game 3 and Yeo said he is in the lineup.
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Despite being outshot 117-79 in the series, the Blues want to continue to keep their mantra of limiting the shots from the middle of the ice and keep the Wild from getting out on the rush.
The majority of Minnesota's shots have come from the dots out and the Blues want to keep their same five-man defensive structure.
"The game gets much easier when you have all five guys on the ice helping out in different areas," Blues center Patrik Berglund said. "Where that comes is with a lot of communication and helping out the guy that has the puck or going for a puck and so on. I think so far, it's been good."
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What else will help the Blues tonight?
Perhaps winning faceoffs and starting with pucks.
Minnesota has a 60-40 percent edge on faceoffs and the Blues are not starting with pucks as often as they'd like.
"Yeah, they have solid centers, big bodies," Berglund said of the Wild. "It's just we really have to dig in and battle even harder on the dot. It's also all five guys, they've got to come in and help too and help out and win some battles too. We've definitely been talking about it and we need to be better there."
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Scoring first has been good for the Blues, who have scored first in all three games.
One thing they want to avoid is letting the foot off the gas and allowing the Wild to build momentum, which they feel like they've done in two of the three games.
"I think we saw that in the first period (of Game 3), we grabbed the lead and kind of sat back a little more," Yeo said. "When we're physical, there's certainly a different approach to our game. Both teams are doing the same thing, they're trying to get better from one game to the next, and it will be no different tonight."
The Blues haven't trailed at any point of the 197:48 played in the series and have led for 103:51.
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-Ivan Barbashev-Vladimir Tarasenko
Magnus Paajarvi-Patrik Berglund-David Perron
Vladimir Sobotka-Alexander Steen-Zach Sanford
Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson-Colton Parayko
Carl Gunnarsson-Robert Bortuzzo
Jake Allen will start in goal; Carter Hutton will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Jori Lehtera, Dmitrij Jaskin, Jordan Schmaltz and Luke Opilka. Paul Stastny (foot), Robby Fabbri (knee) and Nail Yakupov (lower body) are all expected to be out.
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The Wild's projected lineup:
Mikael Granlund-Eric Staal-Charlie Coyle
Nino Niederreiter-Mikko Koivu-Zach Parise
Jason Zucker-Martin Hanzal-Jason Pominville
Chris Stewart-Joel Eriksson Ek-Ryan White
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella-Matt Dumba
Jonas Brodin-Nate Prosser
Devan Dubnyk will start in goal; Alex Stalock will be the backup.
Goalie Darcy Kuemper (sick) and healthy scratches include Jordan Schroeder, Christian Folin and Victor Bartley. Erik Haula (upper body) is out.