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Wild know they will play rival Blues in first round. They want home-ice advantage

The matchup will continue a longstanding rivalry that has seen both sides experience playoff success as of late.

NHL: Minnesota Wild at St. Louis Blues
Minnesota Wild right wing Ryan Hartman (38) controls the puck as St. Louis Blues defenseman Marco Scandella (6) defends during the first period April 16, 2022, at Enterprise Center in St. Louis.
Jeff Curry / USA Today Sports
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ST. PAUL — There’s a little more than a week left in the regular season and the Wild already know they will be playing the rival St. Louis Blues in the first round of the NHL playoffs.

The matchup will continue a longstanding rivalry that has seen both sides experience playoff success as of late.

The last time the Wild advanced past the first round was during the 2014-15 season when they earned a 4-2 series win over the Blues.

On the flip side for the Wild, the most disappointing playoff appearance in recent memory was during the 2016-17 season when they suffered a 4-1 series loss to the Blues. That’s when journeyman goaltender Jake Allen turned into a literal brick wall for a week and a half to frustrate the Wild.

Which brings the rivalry to the 2021-22 season. Though a lot has changed since the last time they met in the playoffs, the animosity for each other still remains ahead their upcoming series.

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Not that the Wild (49-21-7, 105 points) are thinking about the Blues (47-20-11, 105 points) quite yet. They know there’s something to play for with the regular season coming to a close. They Wild have five more games, the Blues four.

“We’re still in the regular season,” said forward Kevin Fiala, whose recent hot streak has pushed his totals to 32 goals and 45 assists this season. “Just trying to win those games here (and) trying to get home-ice advantage.”

That would be a huge boost for the Wild. They are 11-0-1 in their past 12 games at home and 28-7-2 at home this season.

Thus, getting an extra home game in the series would help the Wild, especially considering how much they have struggled against the Blues as of late. Those struggles have been well-documented as the Wild are 2-7-5 in the last 14 meetings with the Blues, including 0-1-2 this season.

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“Since I’ve been here, we lost twice against them in overtime in 3-on-3,” said Nic Deslauriers, who the Wild acquired last month at the trade deadline. “In the playoffs, there’s no 3-on-3, so it’s a big difference. We’re confident.”

While the Wild haven’t beaten the Blues this season, they also haven’t played them at Xcel Energy Center. Technically, they played a home game during the Winter Classic at Target Field. Everyone knows that’s not the same thing.

“Our record speaks (for) itself here,” said Cam Talbot, who has been outstanding between the pipes the past couple of months. “We’re a different team when we’re in front of our fans. We can feed off of that in a series like that. That means a lot for our group moving forward, and we definitely want to start with Game 1 here.”

That’s something coach Dean Evason hasn’t been shy about. He consistently has lauded the fan base this season, and for a guy who doesn’t like to look too far down the road, he’s let his players think about what it would be like to open the playoffs at home.

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“We love it here,” Evason said. “If we can play a seven-game series, and have four games here, that would be good.”

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