The Minnesota Wild were tied for the second-most home wins in the NHL last season, and they've continued to enjoy that advantage early in 2007-08.
In a matchup of Northwest Division rivals, the Wild look to remain undefeated at the Xcel Energy Center on Sunday when they welcome the Colorado Avalanche, who are still looking for their first road victory of the season.
Minnesota won its first eight home games in 2006-07, and its 29 victories there matched Detroit and was one behind league-leading Calgary. So far, the Wild (6-0-1) have won their first three home games and are the only team remaining that has yet to lose in regulation. They also have two shutouts at home, where they've won six straight dating to last season.
Minnesota forward Eric Belanger, who signed a three-year contract with the Wild in July after spending last season with Carolina and Atlanta, gives credit to the home fans' energy for the team's success.
"You have the Canadian cities that are pretty loud, but after that, this is top-five in the league for sure," he told the Wild's official Web site.
Belanger has one goal and two assists in three home games for Minnesota, and three goals and four assists overall. He's adjusted very quickly to his new club and his new teammates.
"I think it's just something that happens," Belanger said of the chemistry between him and linemates Brian Rolston and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. "You can't push it, you can't work at it, it's just there."
Minnesota has also fared well on the road, where it capped a 3-0-1 trip with a 3-1 victory over St. Louis on Saturday. Belanger had a goal and an assist and backup goaltender Josh Harding made 33 saves as the Wild recorded a point in their seventh straight game to start the season - matching the longest streak in franchise history set in 2001-02.
The Wild will look to continue their strong start against the Avalanche (4-3-0), who have lost their first three road games for the first time since 1995-96. The franchise hasn't dropped its first four road games since 1991-92 when Quebec lost nine in a row. That season, the Nordiques were 0-25 with eight ties before recording their first road victory - one of only two that season.
Colorado's road struggles continued with a 5-3 defeat on Friday against Chicago. The Avalanche overcame a three-goal deficit to tie the game, but gave up two goals in the final two minutes.
Colorado has given up 13 goals in its three road losses. Regular starter Peter Budaj was in net for only one of those games - a 4-0 defeat at Nashville on Oct. 4. Budaj is 4-3-2 with a 2.90 goals-against average in 10 career games against the Wild, including 2-1-2 with a 2.47 GAA in Minnesota.
Backup Jose Theodore has allowed four goals in each of his road games this season, but he's 2-1-1 with one shutout and a 1.41 GAA in four career games against the Wild.
Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom, meanwhile, continues to establish himself as one of the top netminders in the NHL. He's 4-0-1 with a 1.38 GAA this season, including 3-0-0 with a 0.67 GAA at home. In four career games against Colorado, he's 3-0-1 with a 2.16 GAA
All four of these teams' games at the Xcel Energy Center last season were decided after regulation. Minnesota won twice in overtime and Colorado won twice in shootouts.
Overall, the Avalanche had a 4-2-2 advantage in the season series.
|Apr 06 '08||MIN 3 at COL 4 - SO||W. Wolski|
|Mar 30 '08||COL 2 at MIN 3 - OT||M. Gaborik|
|Mar 17 '08||COL 1 at MIN 3||B. Radivojevic|
|Jan 24 '08||MIN 3 at COL 2||P. Demitra|
|Nov 18 '07||COL 1 at MIN 4||M. Foy|
|Nov 11 '07||MIN 2 at COL 4||P. Stastny|
|Oct 28 '07||MIN 1 at COL 3||M. Svatos|
|Oct 21 '07||COL 2 at MIN 3||M. Koivu|