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Lehtera returns for Blues against Wild

Will play on top line with Schwartz, Tarasenko

by Dan Myers / NHL.com Correspondent

BLUES (37-20-9) at WILD (31-25-10)

TV: 8 p.m. ET; NBCSN

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Jori Lehtera will return to the lineup for the St. Louis Blues against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN).

Lehtera has missed the past three games because of an upper-body injury. Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said Lehtera will play with familiar linemates Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko.

"They've had good practices here so hopefully we'll get them up to speed," Hitchcock said. 

Tarasenko, who is sixth in the NHL with 30 goals in 64 games, said he is excited to have his linemate back. The duo has been together for a majority of the past two seasons. 

"We know each other well," Tarasenko said. "It's always nice to play with someone for a long time. You know your linemates better and can create more plays."

St. Louis has not played since a 4-3 shootout victory against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday and captain David Backes said he is eager to get back at it.

"It's a little time to rest and recover, let some bumps and bruised start [to heal]," said Backes, a native of nearby Spring Lake Park, Minn. "Hopefully we'll make some new bumps and bruises tonight when we're playing the right way, sacrificing and doing the right things to win in this League."

Minnesota did not have a morning skate; the Wild defeated the Buffalo Sabres 3-2 in a shootout at First Niagara Center on Saturday. 

Here are the projected lineups:

BLUES

Jaden Schwartz - Jori Lehtera - Vladimir Tarasenko

Robby Fabbri - Paul Stastny - Troy Brouwer

Patrik Berglund - David Backes - Dmitrij Jaskin  

Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Carl Gunnarsson - Kevin Shattenkirk

Joel Edmundson - Colton Parayko

Jake Allen

Anders Nilsson

Injured: Brian Elliott (lower body), Steve Ott (hamstring), Alexander Steen (upper body)

Scratched: Robert Bortuzzo, Magnus Paajarvi

WILD

Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle

Jason Zucker - Mikael Granlund - Thomas Vanek

Nino Niederreiter - Erik Haula - Jason Pominville

Ryan Carter - Jarret Stoll - David Jones

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba

Jonas Brodin - Mike Reilly

Devan Dubnyk  

Darcy Kuemper

Injured: None

Scratched: Justin Fontaine, Chris Porter, Nate Prosser

Status report: Allen left practice early on Saturday and was on the ice briefly during morning skate but Hitchcock said he will start. ... Dubnyk made 30 saves against the Sabres on Saturday but could start because the Wild don't play again until Thursday.

Who's hot: Tarasenko's goal against Ottawa on Tuesday gave him 30 this season, his second-straight season with 30 goals. ... Koivu has goals in consecutive games and three in his past five giving him 15, one more than he had all of last season. With 16 games remaining, Koivu already has his highest goal total since he scored 17 in 2010-11.

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