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Preview: Wild host Blues in another Central matchup

Someone’s going to be singing the Blues but it sure won’t be us.

Minnesota Wild v St Louis Blues Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images

Is anyone getting some major deja vu? The Minnesota Wild are playing the St. Louis Blues once more in a matchup at home.

Wild vs. Blues

When: 6:00 p.m. CT
Where: Xcel Center
Radio: KFAN 100.3 FM

Can you believe it’s been a year since we played the Blues? Feels the Wild beat them, like, just a week ago. (Hold for booing and/or applause.) Since then, the St. Louis has had an interesting 2023, beating the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New Jersey Devils, two very difficult teams this season, and then dropping against… the Montreal Canadiens? Weird, right, but that’s just how hockey goes.

On the whole, the Blues have been pretty lackluster this season. They’re sitting third from the bottom of the Central Division, and have recently had a string of unfortunate injuries with some important players. Captain Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko both were put on Injured Reserve after the last game against the Wild (sorry guys), joining Torey Krug who’s been out for a while.

Projected Wild lineup:

Kirill Kaprizov — Sam Steel — Matthew Boldy
Jordan Greenway — Joel Eriksson Ek — Mark Foligno
Brandon Duhaime — Ryan Hartman — Frederick Gaudreau
Mason Shaw — Connor Dewar — Ryan Reaves

Jake Middleton — Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin — Matt Dumba
Jon Merrill — Calen Addison

It will probably be Zane McIntyre making his first NHL start tonight, and a sickly Filip Gustavsson backing him up. With Fleury off in Montreal for a personal matter, Gustavsson needs to see if he is feeling up to even backing up after battling a vicious stomach bug that caused some weight loss. But we imagine that with no real other options, the young Swede will be fine feeling ill on the bench as McIntyre is forced to play the full 60 minutes no matter what.

We’re not going to lie: Mats Zuccarello being day-to-day makes us really sad, even though his liney Kirill Kaprizov seems to be doing okay without him and Matt Boldy is holding down the top-line. We just miss the magic of the Kaprizov-Zuccarello pair. There’s a chance Zuccarello is back tonight, but if not, he should return for the roadie this week.

Speaking of Kaprizov, he’s been on a tear recently, and a dramatic one at that. He had some truly impressive moves against the Tampa Bay Lightning, including two goals. Calen Addison has also been quietly incredible recently, and with his two assists against the Sabres, he is now leading all rookie defensemen in points.

Projected Blues lineup:

Pavel Buchnevich — Robert Thomas — Jordan Kyrou
Brandon Saad — Brayden Schenn — Ivan Barbashev
Jake Neighbours — Noel Acciari — Josh Leivo
Alexei Toropchenko — Nikita Alexandrov — Tyler Pitlick

Niko Mikkola — Colton Parayko
Calle Rosen — Justin Faulk
Steven Santini — Robert Bortuzzo

Jordan Binnington is expected to start in net for the Blues.

We’ve already mentioned the three major injured players the Blues are dealing with in O’Reilly, Tarasenko, and Krug, but they also have Scott Perunovich and Marco Scandella on IR too, as well as Nick Leddy day-to-day.

The top-line is the one to watch this game, with Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas having 38 and 37 points respectively, and Paul Buchnevich with 33. Second-line center Brayden Schenn isn’t far behind with 31.

Here’s hoping the Wild can replicate some New Year’s Eve magic and beat the Blues once again, this time at home.

Puck drops at 6:00pm CT.

Burning Questions

Does Ryan Hartman hate the Blues?

Okay, maybe not, but he did score two goals in the last game against St. Louis. We’d love to see him have an equally good game this matchup and hopefully it comes with a few points in our favor.

What’s Kirill Kaprizov gonna do?

It seems like our funky little Russian gets exponentially more fun to watch as the season goes on, both on and off the ice (but mostly on). His antics didn’t pay off as much as they usually do against the Buffalo Sabres last night, though not for lack of trying, so he’s poised for another bonkers amazing goal soon. Is it going to be tonight? Hopefully, but time will only tell.

Welcome back Brandon Duhaime!

This isn’t a burning question as much as an appreciation. Welcome back Duhaime, and thanks for the opening goal against the Sabres. We missed you on the ice.