The Minnesota Wild are playing their best hockey of the season, but coach Jacques Lemaire thinks his team can be even better.
Minnesota looks to extend its franchise-record winning streak to eight games when it hosts the St. Louis Blues on Thursday.
The Wild (43-24-7) won a club-record seventh straight game and set the franchise mark for most victories in a season with a 3-2 win at home over Phoenix on Tuesday. That still wasn’t enough to satisfy Lemaire, who was disappointed after Minnesota allowed two third period goals and almost squandered a 3-0 lead.
“I’m entitled to let them know when I’m not happy. If you accept two periods, you have to accept one,” Lemaire said. “And after that, you have to accept defeat. That’s how it goes.”
Minnesota hasn’t lost since falling 3-0 to San Jose on March 6 and is set to make the playoffs for the second time in franchise history and first since 2002-03. Since losing 5-3 at St. Louis (30-30-12) on Feb. 18, the Wild are 11-1-2 and can tie the club record for most points in a season (95) with a win Thursday.
With eight games left, Minnesota is in a tight race with Vancouver for first place in the Northwest Division. The Wild are 24-6-4 at home and have the luxury of playing seven of their final eight games there.
Lemaire, though, knows his team can’t become complacent.
“I want a solid game from our guys,” he said. “I want three periods solid. If I don’t get it, I have to let them know.”
“I don’t pay attention to these records,” said Gaborik, who has three goals and six assists during a six-game point streak. “We can’t get that stuff into our head.”
Demitra, who played for St. Louis from 1996-04, has five points in his last three games. He has scored three of his seven career goals against his former team in two games against the Blues this season.
The Wild learned Tuesday that goaltender Manny Fernandez will need to rest his sprained left knee. Fernandez has played once since aggravating the injury on Jan. 30 against the Blues and rookie Niklas Backstrom, who has won six in a row, has been named the starter by Lemaire.
St. Louis fell 4-2 to Ottawa on Tuesday for its fourth loss in five games. The Blues allowed two short-handed goals and felt they were robbed by officials on two others as Senators goalie Martin Gerber covered the puck on two shots that appeared to have crossed the goal line.
“This should not happen in this day and age,” St. Louis’ Doug Weight said. “There’s going to be sometimes you catch it, sometimes you don’t.”
These teams have split their first two meetings this season—both in St. Louis—but the Blues have lost their last four visits to Minnesota since a 1-0 win on March 26, 2003. That is the Wild’s only regulation loss in 10 home game against St. Louis.