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WILD at AVALANCHE
(Best-of-7 series tied 2-2)
TV: NBCSN, RDS, TSN, FS-N, ALT
Big story: This Western Conference First Round series between the Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche has become a best-of-3 with momentum and home ice as two of the deciding factors. If it's momentum, the Wild know they have to break through at Pepsi Center.
"We're going to have to win a game in their building. I would certainly like to make that be the next game," Wild coach Mike Yeo said.
Home ice has been a factor in all four Stanley Cup Playoff series in the Western Conference, with the home team winning 15 of 16 games. The Avalanche won Games 1 and 2 in Denver, and they'll look to ride the enthusiasm of a sellout crowd to regain the upper hand.
"We know that we're strong at home and we know that we play well at home in front of our fans in our building," Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said. "That's what [the Wild] did and now it's up to us to take care of business."
Wild: Minnesota is feeling good about itself after overwhelming the Avalanche in two games at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild outshot the Avalanche 78-34 in Games 3 and 4 and hold a 143-94 edge in the series. The goal scoring hasn't arrived yet -- the Wild have nine goals in four games -- but their puck-possession game has made life difficult for the Avalanche, whose 12 shots on goal in Game 4 were a franchise playoff record for the Wild (fewest allowed) and matched Colorado's postseason mark for fewest in a game.
Yeo said he will approach Game 5 the same way he did Game 4: Expect to see Colorado make a hard push early.
"You can't assume they will start the same way," Yeo said. "Don't go in there with the expectation that we're going to be able to go in there and pick up where we left off. Make it happen with the little things, with the way that we play and the way that we execute."
Avalanche: With 11 players playing their first playoff road games, coach Patrick Roy chalked up Colorado's experience in the Twin Cities as a learning experience.
"It's tough to win the Stanley Cup," Roy said. "There's a process, and the road trip was good in many ways. I'm proud of our team."
Roy also understands the importance of maintaining the home-ice advantage. A loss to the Wild in Game 5 could be devastating to a young team. After combining for 17 points in Games 1 and 2, forwards Gabriel Landeskog, Paul Stastny and Nathan MacKinnon were blanked in Minnesota. With center Matt Duchene out and veteran PA Parenteau struggling, that line must get going again for Colorado to hold serve in Denver.
"We're right there with them," Roy said. "Now it's our turn to [step up]."
Who's hot: Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov, named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy on Friday, allowed three goals on 78 shots (.962) in two losses in Minnesota. … Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper had a shutout streak of 124:36. Kuemper's 0.40 goals against average and .979 save percentage are the best among NHL goaltenders.
Injury report: Colorado defensemen Tyson Barrie (knee) and Cory Sarich (back) and forwards Duchene (knee), John Mitchell (concussion) and Alex Tanguay (hip) are out. … Minnesota is without forward Jason Zucker (quad), defenseman Keith Ballard (groin) and goaltenders Josh Harding (illness) and Niklas Backstrom (abdominal).