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Videos: See how the Wild and Blues match up

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The Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues will open their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series on Thursday night in St. Louis.

For Minnesota, the playoffs are where the Wild have seen players like Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter really step up. The Star Tribune's Michael Russo looks back to last year when Coyle scored the postseason's first goal, finished third on the team with seven points and did it all with two separated shoulders.

Not to be outdone, Niederreiter came through when the Wild needed him the most. He scored twice in Game 7 last year, including the series clincher that ousted Colorado.

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Both players will be counted on again if the Wild want to make a run for the Stanley Cup.

The Skills

The series will feature two of the NHL's best puck handlers – the Wild's Zach Parise and St. Louis' T.J. Oshie.

Oshie demonstrated his puck skills on one of the biggest stages last year in the Olympics, when he scored the game-winning goal in a shootout leading the United States to a victory over the Russians. Too bad for Oshie, there aren't shootouts in the playoffs.

Parise has long been known for his puck handling and goal scoring. They put on quite the display last week.

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The Minnesotans

While the Wild are Minnesota's team, St. Louis does have a couple of players with strong ties to Minnesota. Despite being born in Everett, Washington, Oshie played high school hockey for Warroad.

But he isn't alone. Blues captain David Backes hales from Minneapolis and played at Minnesota State. Both can light the lamp – Backes had 26 goals during the regular season and 58 points, while Oshie had 19 goals and 55 points.

They also have the ability to create a few highlights.

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The Prediction

There's good news in this one if you're a Wild fan. NHL.com took a look at all of the first round pairings, and they are giving an advantage to the Wild.

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