NHL Western Conference first-round series

Regular season: The Blues won all three meetings; 6-4 at the Winter Classic at Target Field on Jan. 1, 4-3 in overtime at St. Louis on April 8 and 6-5 in St. Louis on April 16. Monday's game will be the first time the teams have played at Xcel Energy Center all season.


Key players

Ryan O'Reilly, center

One of the NHL's best defensive forwards, O'Reilly was the Conn Smythe winner on the Blues' championship team and took over as team captain when Alex Pietrangelo fled to Vegas. He will draw some tough assignments during the series.

Vladimir Tarasenko, right winger

The team's leading scorer (34-48-82) has been a happy camper since having shoulder injuries, then requesting an offseason trade, then being left unprotected in the expansion draft. He is the team's Masterton Award nominee.

Ville Husso, goalie

When the Blues won the Stanley Cup in 2019, Jordan Binnington was the star goalie. But Husso, a 27-year-old Finn who is in his second season, has far better stats, even though the two have shared the net. Husso is 25-7-6 with a 2.56 goals-against average.

Must step up

Jordan Kyrou, center

The 23-year-old was a first-time All-Star and has game-breaking ability, as the Wild discovered when he scored twice and had two assists in the Winter Classic at Target Field on New Year's Day. He was not yet on the team for the Stanley Cup run in '19.


Justin Faulk, defense

The South St. Paul native came to the Blues via trade following the Cup winning season, and signed a long-term deal. He had 16 goals and was a team-best plus-41 this season, and will be one to watch on the St. Louis power play.

Breaking it down

Offense: Powerful. The Blues' late-season offensive surge made them the third-highest scoring team (3.77) with all nine top forwards getting 20 or more goals. Like the Wild, their first three lines are threats, but their forward depth after that is in question.

Defense: Statistically, their 2.91 goals-against per game was 11th-best in the league. The defensemen aren't particularly high scoring after Faulk and Torey Krug, but Blues coach Craig Berube preaches tough team defense and the penalty kill unit is outstanding.

Goaltending: Husso gets the net, but it's probably comforting to know that backup Binnington has won a Stanley Cup. Husso's .919 saves percentage was a lot better than Binnington's (.901). The third stringer is former St. Cloud State Huskie Charlie Lindgren (5-0 in five appearances).

Special teams: This is where the Blues have a big edge. Both their power-play units are effective, and their 27% was second-best in the league to Toronto. Their penalty kill (84.1%) is fifth in the NHL, with an unsung hero in 6-6 defenseman Colton Parayko.

Projected lines


Pavel Buchnevich-Robert Thomas-Vladimir Tarasenko

Brandon Saad-Ryan O'Reilly-David Perron

Ivan Barbashev-Brayden Schenn-Jordan Kyrou

Alex Toropchenko-Tyler Bozak-Nathan Walker


Marco Scandella-Colton Parayko

Nick Leddy-Justin Faulk

Torey Krug-Robert Bortuzzo

Injuries: Scandella (lower body), Schenn (upper body), LW MacKenzie MacEachern (upper body), D Scott Perunovich (wrist)


Key players

Kirill Kaprizov, LW

The highest-scoring player in team history, he had team records with 47 goals, 61 assists and 108 points after winning the NHL's Calder Trophy last season. Is extra effective with RW Mats Zuccarello on his line, although Zuccarello has been sidelined because of an injury.

Jared Spurgeon, D

One of the keys to the team's power play — he often is the only defenseman on the first unit — Spurgeon is recovering from an upper body injury and will likely be targeted with extra physicality. In second season as captain, his leadership in what is likely to be an emotional series is vital.

Joel Eriksson Ek, C

Strong offensively (26 goals) and defensively, Eriksson Ek will be an important penalty killer and faceoff man. The latter will play into the series, as the Wild is not a good faceoff team and has to step up in that category, especially in the PK.

Must step up

Kevin Fiala, LW

Fiala had a breakthrough season (33-52-85) and was frequently spectacular, especially when rookie RW Matt Boldy joined his line. But Fiala's individual forays will be harder to come by in the tight-checking playoffs. He had only one goal and was -6 in last year's playoffs.


Matt Dumba, D

Dumba and defense partner Jonas Brodin are best friends and capable of great plays, but Dumba is also a high-risk, high-reward type of player who ended up with only a plus-9 rating. He'll have to make good decisions as two high scoring teams duel in what could be a low-scoring series.

Breaking it down

Offense: The Wild was the fifth-highest scoring team (3.72) in the NHL and, when at full strength, had three potent forward lines — the team has six 20-plus goal scorers. Injuries could cause depth problems. The Wild's fourth-liners are minus players and haven't excelled when forced to more prominent roles.

Defense: Last year's "big four" defense was pared to three — Dumba, Brodin and Spurgeon — when Ryan Suter was cut. Jake Middleton was a trade deadline acquisition to pair with Spurgeon, and with Jon Merrill and Dmitry Kulikov enjoying good seasons, Alex Goligoski — and his team-high plus-41 — might be scratched. As a team, the Wild gave up the 17th-most goals (3.04).

Goaltending: Cam Talbot made the All-Star team, but the Wild traded rookie Kaapo Kahkonen at the deadline and acquired three-time Cup winner Marc-Andre Fleury. The betting money is both Fleury and Talbot will see action, but the Wild would love to see one take the role and run with it.

Special teams: The Wild is 18th in the league with a 20.5% power play with their top scorers loaded on to the first unit. The 76.1% penalty kill number is eighth-worst in the league, caused frequently by lost draws and failed clearing attempts — the unit will have to get better.

Projected lineup


Kirill Kaprizov-Ryan Hartman-Mats Zuccarello

Kevin Fiala-Frederick Gaudreau-Matt Boldy

Jordan Greenway-Joel Eriksson Ek-Marcus Foligno

Nic Deslauriers-Tyson Jost-Brandon Duhaime


Jake Middleton-Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba

Dmitry Kulikov-Jon Merrill

Injuries: Zuccarello (lower body), Foligno (lower body)