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From the Rink: Winnik, Koivu, Granlund playing shutdown role

Trio will be tested tonight against Blues... if Boudreau can get the matchup he wants

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com

ST. LOUIS -- During the month of November, the Wild has played some of the NHL's best lines. 

A couple weeks ago, it was consecutive games against Philadelphia and its line of Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier and Jakub Voracek.

On Friday, it was Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen.

The two constants have been Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund, who have been together on a line since coach Bruce Boudreau took over behind the bench last season. 

More recently, Daniel Winnik has been added to the line, adding even more veteran savvy and defensive prowess.

In all three games against Philly and Colorado, the Wild's shutdown line has kept the scoresheet clean. 

Tonight in St. Louis, the Wild will face perhaps its stiffest test when it attempts to slow the Blues group of Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn and Jaden Schwartz.

Video: Wild pregame vs St. Louis Blues

"That line we faced [Friday] is a great line, but I think this is a bigger test," Winnik said. "Their guys are really going, I think Schenn has really elevated his game since coming over from [Philadelphia]. I don't know who we're going to be playing against tonight, but it's going to be a challenge either way."

The problem for Minnesota on Saturday is that is its on the road, meaning Boudreau will not have the option to match counterpart Mike Yeo; the Blues will have last change, meaning if the former Wild coach wants the Tarasenko line to avoid the Winnik-Koivu-Granlund group, he likely will be able to accomplish it.

Video: Bruce Boudreau pregame at Blues

"We won't have a lot of choice in the matter, frankly," Boudreau said. "But their second line is almost as good as their first. Hopefully we can get [the Koivu line] against one of those two lines. 

"We have to get good goaltending and play strong defensively and look for our breaks. That's how you're going to beat this team, they're the best in the League."

As Boudreau noted, St. Louis' second line also presents challenges. Yeo has settled recently with Paul Stastny centering wings Vladimir Sobotka and Alex Steen.

While not nearly as proficient as the Tarasenko line, which has combined for 86 points and 33 goals over the first 23 games this season, it's a veteran group that has had plenty of success in the NHL.

Stastny, one of the best faceoff men in the League, has five goals and 19 points to lead that group.

"If you want to win hockey games, some games you have to try and [play a shutdown role]," Granlund said. "I think we did a pretty good job last game and let's see how the matchups are going to go but obviously, we'll do whatever it takes to try and win the game."

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Jason Zucker - Eric Staal - Nino Niederreiter

Daniel Winnik - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund

Marcus Foligno - Charlie Coyle - Chris Stewart

Tyler Ennis - Matt Cullen - Zack Mitchell

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin - Matt Dumba

Kyle Quincey - Gustav Olofsson

Devan Dubnyk

Alex Stalock 

BLUES

Jaden Schwartz - Brayden Schenn - Vladimir Tarasenko

Vladimir Sobotka - Paul Stastny - Alex Steen

Dmitrij Jaskin - Oskar Sundqvist - Samuel Blais 

Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Chris Thorburn

Joel Edmundson - Alex Pietrangelo

Jay Bouwmeester - Colton Parayko

Vince Dunn - Robert Bortuzzo

Jake Allen

Carter Hutton

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