Mike Yeo has been here before. Literally and figuratively.
Yeo is leading his St. Louis Blues into the place he still calls home – the Twin Cities – and where he was head coach of the Wild from 2011-2016.
Just like he used to pull the Wild out of the darkness, Yeo rallied the Blues from the slump that got Ken Hitchcock fired and turned them into a scary-good team on its way to St. Paul for Game 1 of a best-of-seven series against his former team.
The Blues have gone 22-8-2 for a league-best 46 points since Yeo's first game as head coach on Feb. 2. The Wild, over that same stretch, have gone 16-13. But that's not the team Yeo is preparing his Blues for. He expects the Wild that went 40-14-6 the first three months of the season.
"I'm not expecting that team when we play them for Game 1, I'm expecting the team that's been at their best for most of the year," Yeo said, via the Blues' website.
After losing 12 of 16 games in March, Minnesota might be back on track with four straight wins to close the regular season.
"We're coming in and we're playing a team that, for most of the year, was probably the best team in the league," Yeo said. "We have to prove to ourselves first that we're good enough to beat those guys. We think we are, but it's one thing to think it and it's another thing to get out there and do it."
The Blues beat the Wild three of five times in the regular season, including a 2-1 win in St. Paul in early March.
"The playoffs is another notch - it's another level," said Yeo. "We're going into a building that I know is going to be very loud. And a team that's gonna be jacked up and has a high belief right now in what they're capable of. There's going to be another notch and we have to be ready to meet that."