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Wild Warmup: Minnesota vs. St. Louis, Game 1

Minnesota begins its quest for the Stanley Cup on Wednesday

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com
The essentials

Who: St. Louis Blues at Minnesota Wild (Series tied 0-0)

Puck drop: 8:45 p.m. CT

Watch: FOX Sports North; FOX Sports Go; NBC Sports Network; Wild Watch Bar Locations

Listen: KFAN 100.3 FM

Follow: @mnwild; GameCenter


At the rink

After three days of waiting, the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs have finally arrived for the Minnesota Wild.

The team concluded its regular season with a 3-1 win in Arizona on Saturday, but in reality, it's known for weeks that the postseason was in its future.

Now, after two rigorous practice days and a morning skate, the time for buildup is finished.

Video: Bruce Boudreau Talks Game 1 vs. Blues

"I think that everybody on both teams is pretty anxious to get this thing going," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "I don't think either team has had too many days off since the beginning of March, so these three days seem like forever."

Embarking on its fifth straight trip to the postseason, the Wild has more "been there, done that" mood than in recent seasons. 

Even players considered part of its young core -- Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund and Jonas Brodin, among others -- have at least 29 games of playoff experience.

Video: Wild Pregame vs. Blues, Game 1

"I think back to our first year when we made the playoffs and that was the first time for a lot of our guys," Coyle said. "It's a lot different [now], but obviously in a good way. Any experience is a good experience. It's nice to have that."

Mix in Eric Staal, who has won a Stanley Cup, and Zach Parise, who has played in a Cup final, and the Wild has one of the more experienced dressing rooms in the playoffs.

"All that experience, it's nice when those guys talk about it," Coyle said. "They know what it's like to have experienced that."

Of the 23 players on Minnesota's roster, 18 have appeared in a playoff game in a Wild uniform. Three others -- Staal, Martin Hanzal and Ryan White -- have played in the postseason with other teams. 

Defenseman Christian Folin and Joel Eriksson Ek are the only players expected to make their playoff debuts on Wednesday, although Folin has been around the team each of the past two playoff runs.

"You go the playoffs for two years and watch it really close," Folin said. "It's obviously been a goal of mine to play for a Stanley Cup and I really look forward to playing tonight."

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Nino Niederreiter - Eric Staal - Zach Parise

Erik Haula - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund 

Jason Zucker - Martin Hanzal - Charlie Coyle

Chris Stewart - Joel Eriksson Ek - Jason Pominville

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba

Jonas Brodin - Christian Folin

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

BLUES

Jaden Schwartz - Ivan Barbashev - Vladimir Tarasenko

Magnus Paajarvi - Patrik Berglund - David Perron

Vladimir Sobotka - Jori Lehtera - Alexander Steen

Scottie Upshall - Kyle Brodziak - Ryan Reaves

Jay Bouwmeester - Alex Pietrangelo

Joel Edmundson - Colton Parayko

Carl Gunnarsson - Jordan Schmaltz

Jake Allen

Carter Hutton


The opponent

Perhaps the hottest team in the NHL entering the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the St. Louis Blues won four of their final games entering the postseason and are 22-8-2 since Feb. 1, when head coach Mike Yeo took over for Ken Hitchcock. One of the biggest reasons behind their success has been the improved play of goaltender Jake Allen, who is 16-7-2 with a 1.85 goals against and a .938 save percentage since the coaching change, allowing nearly a full goal fewer per game than during the first four months of the season. Vladimir Tarasenko, one of the League'e most explosive offensive weapons, finished the campaign one goal shy of his second 40-goal season. His 75 points during the regular season, however, were the most of his five-year career.


Connections

• Wild forward Chris Stewart scored 63 goals and 115 points in 211 games over four seasons with the Blues from 2011-2014.

• Wild assistant coach Scott Stevens skated one season for the Blues, scoring five goals and 49 points in 1990-91. 

• Blues head coach coach Mike Yeo compiled a 173-132-44 record as the Wild's head coach from 2011 until last February.

• St. Louis assistant coach Rick Wilson served in the same role with Minnesota from 2010 through the end of last season.

• Blues forward Kyle Brodziak spent six seasons in a Wild sweater (2009-15), scoring 169 points, including 72 goals in 446 games.


The power of one

The Wild enters Game 1 with an all-time record of 2-9 (including five overtime losses) in the first contest of a series. The Wild won the series after winning its first-ever playoff game against Colorado in 2003 and in 2015's Round 1 against St. Louis, but has only advanced in two of its nine series where it has dropped Game 1 -- 2014's Round 1 against Colorado and the 2003 Round 2 against Vancouver.

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