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Blues hope to continue winning ways vs. Wild

by John Kreiser

WILD (15-5-4) at BLUES (16-3-3)


Last 10: Minnesota 8-1-1; St. Louis 8-1-1

Season series: The St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild meet for the first of five times this season. The Blues won all three games between the teams last season, extending their winning streak against the Wild to five. St. Louis is 7-0-2 against Minnesota in the past nine meetings at Scottrade Center.

Big story: The NHL's two hottest teams in November face off for the first time this season. Minnesota is 9-1-1 this month; the Blues are 9-2-1.

Team Scope:

Wild: Josh Harding stepped up last month when starting goaltender Niklas Backstrom went down with an injury. Backstrom returned the favor on Saturday after Harding was injured in warmups, stopping 37 shots against the Winnipeg Jets in a 3-2 shootout victory just hours after returning from a concussion.

"You have to be ready all the time," Backstrom said afterward, "and you never know what's going to happen, so you have to find a way to be ready and be at your best."

Blues: In contrast to the Wild, who are 10 games over .500 despite having outscored opponents by nine goals, the Blues are beating up on a lot of opponents. They lead the NHL with a plus-29 goal differential after routing the Dallas Stars 6-1 at home Saturday night. Six players scored and 13 had at least one point.

"Through the whole lineup, everybody was solid," said center T.J. Oshie, who had a goal and an assist. "When we can go at them in waves, I think that's when we're at our best."

Coach Ken Hitchcock is expected to use starter Jaroslav Halak in goal after Brian Elliott made 34 saves against the Stars.

Who's hot: Minnesota captain Mikko Koivu has nine points in his past six games. … His counterpart with the Blues, David Backes, has goals in back-to-back games. He has 10 goals in 22 games, four more than he scored all last season.

Injury report: Harding (lower body) didn't make the trip for Minnesota. An MRI on Sunday came up negative. Forwards Mikael Granlund (upper body) and Torrey Mitchell (leg) are out of the lineup again. … Blues forward Ryan Reaves broke his right hand Saturday and is expected to miss a month. Defenseman Jordan Leopold (hand) is out indefinitely.

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