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Preview: Wild (45-26) at Blues (44-32)
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Date: November 25, 2013 8:00 PM EDT

No teams have played better this month than the Minnesota Wild and the St. Louis Blues.

The Blues have taken the last five meetings between teams that meet for the first time this season Monday night in St. Louis.

Minnesota (15-5-4) is an NHL-best 9-1-1 in November while St. Louis (16-3-3) also has 19 points in that span with a 9-2-1 mark.

This is the first season they will meet as Central Division rivals, and the five matchups figure to help determine the champion of a division in which the top four teams all have between 34-36 points.

St. Louis has won all five meetings since the start of 2012. The Blues haven't suffered a regulation home loss over the previous five seasons against the Wild, going 7-0-2.


It's unclear if Minnesota will have its top goalie available Monday since Josh Harding was injured during warmups of Saturday's 3-2 shootout win in Winnipeg. Harding suffered a lower-body injury after he slipped on a puck.

Niklas Backstrom stepped up and made 37 saves. He was returning from his first concussion, suffered after an elbow to the head by Toronto's Nazem Kadri on Nov. 13.

"You have to be ready all the time and you never know what's going to happen so you have to find a way to be ready and be at your best," said Backstrom, who went through his first full practice since that incident on Friday.

Backstrom helped Minnesota finish a scoreless first period despite being outshot 14-4. The Wild tied the game twice in the third, including Zach Parise's short-handed goal with 4:55 left.

"He (Backstrom is) the difference in the game for us," coach Mike Yeo said.

"I mean, obviously I give our players a great deal of credit for dealing with the adversity with what happened at the beginning of the game. It's a little bit easier to deal with it when you see your goalie go out and play the way that he was."

St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock will turn back to Jaroslav Halak after backup Brian Elliott improved to 4-0-1 with 34 saves in Saturday's 6-1 home rout of Dallas.

"Like all good teams, you just pick you poison and away you go," Hitchcock said.

The Blues' league-leading power play unit improved to 25.6 percent as it went 1 for 3 with a goal by Derek Roy - one of six different skaters to score.

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

Alexander Steen remains second in the NHL with 17 goals, but he has gone four straight games without scoring. He ended a three-game pointless streak with an assist against the Stars.

The Blues will be wary of Parise, who has four points in his last two games, and Mikko Koivu, who has nine in his last six.

St. Louis winger Ryan Reaves broke his right hand in a first-period fight against Dallas and will be out up to four weeks. Hitchcock said that Magnus Paajarvi will get more ice time as a result.

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