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Steen goes for 20 goals; Blues, Avs chase 18th win

by Brian Hunter

BLUES (17-3-3) at AVALANCHE (17-5-0)


Last 10: St. Louis 8-1-1; Colorado 6-4-0

Season series: This is the second of four meetings between the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche. Alexander Steen scored twice and T.J. Oshie had four assists as the Blues topped the Avalanche 7-3 at Scottrade Center on Nov. 14.

Big story: Wednesday's matchup can be summed up with a pair of numbers: 17 and 19. The first reflects the number of wins each team has reached, Colorado in 22 games, St. Louis in 23. The second number is how many goals Steen has; he's one behind Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals for the NHL lead and five shy of his career high for a full season.

Each team ranks in the top six offensively and defensively: The Blues are second at 3.44 goals per game and sixth with a 2.13 goals-against average, while the Avalanche are fifth at 3.14 goals per game and tied for second with a 2.04 GAA.

Team Scope:

Blues: Jaroslav Halak enjoys his fair share of offensive support, but on Monday first-period goals by Vladimir Sobotka and Steen were more than enough in what turned into a 3-0 victory against the Minnesota Wild. Steen added an empty-netter and Halak stopped 22 shots for his 27th career shutout. He has a franchise-record 18 since joining St. Louis.

"When you can roll four lines and six defensemen in this League, it makes yourself a very tough team to play against," said defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, who assisted on Sobotka's goal in the first game of his second stint with the Blues. "I believe that's what we are. We've just got to keep it going."

Avalanche: It's the start of a busy four-day stretch for Colorado, which plays back-to-back games against the Minnesota Wild on Friday and Saturday. The Avalanche swept a two-game road trip with overtime wins against the Phoenix Coyotes and Los Angeles Kings. Ryan O'Reilly and Jamie McGinn played heroes, with Semyon Varlamov recording a 19-save shutout to edge the Kings 1-0 on Saturday in L.A. Coach Patrick Roy said Varlamov will be back in net against the Blues.

"We've beat the last two Cup winners, with Chicago and L.A., and obviously Phoenix has a really good team this year," rookie Nathan MacKinnon said Monday. "So, good confidence for us going into St. Louis, and obviously with Minnesota twice coming up, it's going to be some big division games."

Who's hot: Jaden Schwartz has one goal and three assists during a four-game point streak for the Blues. … John Mitchell has two goals and two assists during a three-game point streak for the Avalanche.

Injury report: St. Louis defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (flu-like symptoms) missed Monday's game. Forward Ryan Reaves (hand) had surgery and will be re-evaluated in six weeks. Defenseman Jordan Leopold (hand) is on injured reserve. … Colorado forward Matt Duchene (oblique strain) is a game-time decision for Wednesday. Forward Alex Tanguay (knee) and defenseman Ryan Wilson (back) are likely out until about the second week of December, according to Roy.

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