In an important Western Conference battle, the Minnesota Wild host the Columbus Blue Jackets tonite. When they do so, they will be without Martin St Louis, still nursing a sore knee, and Jan Bulis, who strained a shoulder in a 5-1 loss to Los Angeles. The loss to the Kings was the first stinker of the year played by the Wild. They were outshot by a 2-1 margin, andDan Cloutier was pulled in the 3rd period. "We can't play games like that and expect to compete for a playoff birth," said coach Michel Therrien. "That's 2 losses in a row, and in such a tough conference, that's as long a losing streak we can afford. The Jackets a gritty bunch, and if we don't compete, we can't beat them. These are the guys we have to beat to make the playoffs." The Wild are expected to skate 7 defensemen against Columbus with St. Louis and Bulis out.