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STATS Writer
In the midst of an extended home stretch, the Minnesota Wild are counting on their strong play at Xcel Energy Center to continue as they try to bounce back from a tough loss.
Looking to avoid back-to-back regulation home losses for the first time in a year, the Wild host the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.
Minnesota (11-5-1) had its three-game winning streak snapped Thursday with a 3-2 loss to visiting Vancouver. Mikko Koivu scored twice in the second period for the Wild, who lost for the second time in six games - both to the Canucks.
"Overall, I felt that the guys, they tried, but I don't think we had good legs tonight," coach Jacques Lemaire told the Wild's official Web site.
Niklas Backstrom allowed three goals on 27 shots Thursday, ending a personal three-game win streak during which he surrendered only three goals. He is 11-1-3 with a 1.53 goals-against average in his last 15 regular-season 15 home games.
Backstrom and the Wild look to bounce back Saturday when they continue this five-game homestand, which also includes games against Washington, Dallas and Tampa Bay. When the Canucks return to Minnesota again on Dec. 5, the Wild will have played nine of 11 at home.
Minnesota has good reason to believe it can recover from Thursday's loss. It is 5-2-1 at home this season and hasn't dropped consecutive games in regulation at home since Nov. 21 and 23, 2007. Since then, the Wild are 23-9-6 at Xcel Energy Center.
"You have to win at home if you want to get to the playoffs and it's something where we didn't get it done tonight, but we'll move on and we have another one Saturday," Wild defenseman Nick Schultz said.
While Minnesota has relied mostly on Backstrom and the team's stellar defense in part because of the absence of last season's leading scorer Marian Gaborik (lower body injury), Koivu has three goals in the last two games to spark the offense. He leads Minnesota with 18 points and Thursday marked the first time the Wild lost this season when he has recorded at least one point.
The Blues (7-8-2), meanwhile, are coming off a 3-2 overtime win over Anaheim on Friday. Lee Stempniak scored with 2:21 left in the extra period, while David Backes and Steve Regier had power-play goals in regulation.
Regier has given the Blues a huge lift, scoring three goals in his first two games with the team. He had no points in his previous 18 NHL contests - all with the New York Islanders.
St. Louis, which entered Friday tied for last in the NHL, was 1-5-2 in its previous eight games. Stempniak has three goals this season - all in the last six games - and has 10 points during that stretch.
"It's tough," he said. "Probably not as tough as you would think, though. I think we took the play to them in overtime."
The win provided the Blues with some good news this week after they lost top scorer Andy McDonald to a broken leg on Sunday. McDonald, who has six goals and 18 points this season, will be out at least eight weeks.
Minnesota won three of four against St. Louis last season, splitting two home games. The Wild are 8-2-2 with two ties all time against the Blues in St. Paul.
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