Blues Gameday Preview: Minnesota Wild – 1/1/2022

The St. Louis Blues will take the ice tonight on what could be the coldest Winter Classic in NHL history. Set to take place at Target Field in Minneapolis, the Minnesota Wild and Blues will play at the home of the Minnesota Twins in front of 38,000 fans. Current predictions have forecasted the day with a high of -3 degrees Fahrenheit and temperatures could get as low as -14, beating the current record of 0 degrees set in 2003 in Edmonton for the Heritage Classic. Attending fans looking for tips on how to stay warm should take note from Lloyd Christmas and bring an extra pair of gloves. 

Here’s a look at the storylines ahead of tonight’s matchup:

2 Storylines: Blues (18-9-5)

Blues Looking to Repeat Winter Classic Success

In the team’s only other Winter Classic appearance, the Blues beat their Central Division rival, the Chicago Blackhawks in a 4-1 victory. It was fan-favorite Vladimir Tarasenko with two goals in the third period that propelled the team to victory at Busch Stadium in 2016. 

The annual outdoor game always seems to add an extra bit of excitement for the players as they look forward to playing on the big stage. This year, the club will bring a high-flying offensive squad averaging 3.4 goals per game and five players with 10 or more goals, led by none other than Tarasenko.

Blues Healthy Once Again

After Thursday’s practice, head coach Craig Berube informed the media that the team would be seeing forwards Oskar SundqvistIvan Barbashev, and Pavel Buchnevich rejoin the team in Minnesota. During his press conference, Berube also informed the media that forward Brayden Schenn could return to the lineup for the Winter Classic as well. The head coach stated:

“We still have a decision to make maybe with Schenn. He could be available. That’s something we’ve got to think about – make sure he feels he’s comfortable playing and we feel like we’re putting him in a good spot.”

Schenn has been skating with the extras in practice and has been deemed a “game-time decision” for the game. 

RELATED: 3 Things to Watch for Blues in 2022 Winter Classic

The Blues were blessed with the reunion of their top forwards in their matchup on Dec 29 against the Edmonton Oilers when Jordan KyrouRobert Thomas, and David Perron returned to the team. The three returning forwards have combined for 57 points this year; Barbashev and Buchnevich are both ranked in the top five in points on the team. 

2 Storylines: Wild (19-9-2)

Minnesota Looking to Rebound

The Wild are looking to get back on track today as the club is on a current four-game losing streak and will be without forward Joel Eriksson Ek, defensemen Jonas Brodin, and captain Jared Spurgeon. The team is currently 6-3-1 in their last 10 games and only 5-3-0 against Central Division opponents. Like St. Louis, the Wild can be just as threatening against their opponents with four players on the roster with 10 or more goals this season and averaging 3.6 goals per game as a team. 

The Cold Doesn’t Bother The Wild Anyway

Tonight’s game against the Blues will mark Minnesota’s first Winter Classic. Though the organization played in the 2016 Stadium Series, this will mark their first New Years Day game. To date, there have been 637 players drafted to the NHL that were born in the state of Minnesota, the most of any state.

Alex Goligoski Minnesota Wild-Blues Gameday Preview: Minnesota Wild - 1/1/2022
Alex Goligoski, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

When asked about playing outdoors, defenseman Alex Goligoski stated, “If any state would appreciate an outdoor game, it would definitely be Minnesota. Those are my favorite hockey memories growing up, playing on the outdoor rink.”

You don’t need to be from Minnesota though, to appreciate playing hockey outdoors. Marcus Foligno, who grew up in Buffalo, New York, had this to say about playing outdoors: “It’s so much fun. After school, you tell your buddies, ‘Hey, let’s meet here at 5 o’clock,’ and then before you know it you have 20 people out there playing.”

Blues & Wild Players to Watch

St. Louis: Brandon Saad – The 2022 Winter Classic will be Saad’s fifth outdoor game. With 12 goals on the season, Saad has the second-most goals on the team and should be a threat against the Wild at Target Field.

Minnesota: Kirill Kaprizov – With five goals and 11 points through eight games in the month of December, “The Thrill” will look to put on a show during the outdoor game.

Projected Line Combinations

St. Louis Blues

Left WingCenterRight Wing
Brandon SaadRyan O’ReillyDavid Perron
Jordan KyrouRobert ThomasVladimir Tarasenko
Logan BrownTyler BozakPavel Buchnevich
Klim KostinIvan BarbashevOskar Sundqvist
Left DefenseRight Defense
Niko MikkolaColton Parayko
Torey KrugJustin Faulk
Marco ScandellaScott Perunovich
Starting Goalie
Jordan Binnington

Minnesota Wild

Left WingCenterRight Wing
Krill KaprizovRyan HartmanMats Zuccarello
Marcus FolignoFrederick GaudreauKevin Fiala
Jordan GreenwayNico SturmBrandon Duhaime
Nick BjugstadVictor RaskRem Potluck
Left DefenseRight Defense
Jonas BrodinMathew Dumba
Jon MerrillAlex Goligoski
Jordie BennDmitry Kulikov
Starting Goalie
Cam Talbot

Blues’ Next Game: Wednesday, January 5 at Pittsburgh Penguins (6:30 PM CST)

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