WILD (26-19-5) at AVALANCHE (25-19-6)
TV — FS-N (HD), ATL (HD)
Last 10 — Minnesota 6-4-0; Colorado 4-5-1.
Season series — This is the fourth of six meetings between the two Northwest Division foes. Colorado came out on top in two of the previous three contests, winning 7-4 and and 4-1, respectively. Minnesota's lone victory against the Avs came in late December, when the Wild won, 3-1.
Big story — The Wild and Avs are skating in opposite directions of late. When the two combatants take on one another, the Wild will look to continue their strong recent play, while the Avs seek a reversal of fortune. Meanwhile, Petr Forsberg works hard on the ice to make a return to the NHL with the Avalanche.
"There was no break for me," Forsberg said, referencing the recent All-Star break. "I've been skating every day and working out. [Wednesday] was a good practice. A decision will be make in the near future, so I'll just keep on skating here for the next couple days and make a decision really quick."
Wild — In a competitive Western Conference, generally, and Northwest Division, specifically, the Wild will take a 5-1-0 recent stretch with no complaints. Continually chasing a firm spot in the Western Conference playoff picture, the Wild have been hitting on all cylinders, shutting out opponents three times in the past six games, while outscoring them 19-7 in the same span. Heading into a mini road trip which begins against the Avs, the Wild sit just outside the eighth and final playoff spot with the Avs trailing by just one point.
Avalanche — A hot team at different points throughout the season, the Avs have recently struggled, having gone 1-3-0 in their last four outings to close the month of January. As a result, Colorado has teetered between the 10th and eighth seeds in the West. Fortunately for the Avs, they open February with consecutive home games, the first of which is against the Wild, but with a stumble, the Avs face a four-game road trip right after. On the bright side, forward Peter Mueller took to the ice Wednesday morning, marking the first such occasion since September after suffering a concussion during the preseason.
"It's a good sign," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "There's obviously no timetable at all set for his return, but he's certainly making progress and heading in the right direction."
Who's hot — Heading into the All-Star break, Avs center, Paul Stastny, collected five points in five games, while Minnesota’s Martin Havlat has produced at the same rate for the Wild.
Injury report — Both teams are expected to bring healthy lineups to the ice.
Stat pack — Long-time NHL veteran and Minnesota forward, Andrew Brunette, is coming off his 1,000th career game.
Puck drop — The Wild seek their 15th win away from Minnesota, while the Avs seek their 15th win in Colorado.