BLUES (17-3-3) at AVALANCHE (17-5-0)
TV: ALT2, FS-MW
Last 10: St. Louis 8-1-1; Colorado 6-4-0
Season series: This is the second of four meetings between the St. Louis Blues and Colorado Avalanche. Alexander Steen scored twice, and T.J. Oshie had four assists Nov. 17 when the Blues topped the Avalanche 7-3 at Scottrade Center.
Big story: Wednesday's matchup can be summed up with a pair of numbers: 17 and 19. The first reflects the number of wins each team has reached—Colorado in 22 games, St. Louis in 23. The second number is how many goals Steen has this season, one behind NHL-leader Alex Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals and five shy of his career high for a season.
Each team ranks at the very top of the league in winning percentage, with St. Louis coming in at 80.4 percent and Colorado sitting at 77.3 percent. Both are also ranked in the top six both offensively and defensively: The Blues are second at 3.44 goals per game and sixth with a 2.13 goals-against average, while the Avalanche are fifth at 3.14 GPG and tied for second with a 2.04 GAA.
Blues: Jaroslav Halak enjoys his fair share of offensive support, but Monday first-period goals by Vladimir Sobotka and Steen were more than enough in what turned into a 3-0 victory against the Minnesota Wild. Steen added an empty-netter, and Halak stopped 22 shots for his 27th career shutout. He has a franchise-record 18 since joining St. Louis.
"When you can roll four lines and six defensemen in this league, it makes yourself a very tough team to play against," said defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo, who assisted on Sobotka's goal in the first game of his second stint with the Blues. "I believe that's what we are. We've just got to keep it going."
Avalanche: It's the start of a busy four-day stretch for Colorado, which following Thanksgiving plays a back-to-back against Minnesota on Friday and Saturday. The Avalanche swept a brief two-game road trip last week with overtime wins against the Phoenix Coyotes (Thursday) and Los Angeles Kings (Saturday). Ryan O'Reilly and Jamie McGinn played heroes, and Semyon Varlamov notched 19 saves in the shutout as Colorado edged the Kings 1-0 on Saturday.
Coach Patrick Roy said Varlamov will be back in net against Wednesday night against the Blues.
"We've beat the last two Cup winners, with Chicago and L.A., and obviously Phoenix has a really good team this year," rookie Nathan MacKinnon said Monday. "So, good confidence for us going into St. Louis, and obviously with Minnesota twice coming up, it's going to be some big division games."
Who's hot: Jaden Schwartz has one goal and three assists during a four-game point streak for the Blues. … For the Avalanche, John Mitchell has two goals and two assists during a three-game point streak, and MacKinnon leads all NHL rookies in assists (10-tied) and shots (65). He is tied for fourth in rookie scoring (13 points).
Injury report: St. Louis defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (flu-like symptoms) missed Monday's game, and forward Ryan Reaves (hand) had surgery and will be re-evaluated in six weeks. Defenseman Jordan Leopold (hand) is on injured reserve. … Colorado forward Matt Duchene (oblique strain) is doubtful for Wednesday but could return during the home-and-home against Minnesota. Forward Alex Tanguay (knee) and defenseman Ryan Wilson (back) are likely out until about the second week of December, according to Roy.
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