DENVER -- Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo has called Saturday's regular-season finale against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center a "Game 7," and with good reason. The Wild would secure a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a win, but they would miss out with a regulation loss if the Columbus Blue Jackets win or gain a point in their home game with the Nashville Predators.
If the Wild and Blue Jackets finish tied in the standings -- each has 53 points -- Minnesota makes it to the postseason because it holds the tiebreaker with Columbus. The Wild also could move from eighth place in the Western Conference to seventh, depending how the Detroit Red Wings, who have 54 points, fare in their game at the Dallas Stars.
Goalie Niklas Backstrom is expected to start for the Wild despite getting pulled after allowing three goals on five shots in the first period Friday in a 6-1 home loss to the Edmonton Oilers. Backstrom has gone 10-2-1 with a 2.10 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in his past 13 games in Denver, where the Wild have gone 11-2-2 in their past 15 visits.
The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that the Wild were expected to recall forwards Jason Zucker and Stephane Veilleux from the Houston Aeros of the American Hockey League and return Jake Dowell and Carson McMillan.
Each team played Friday -- the Avalanche pulled out a 5-4 shootout win at the Phoenix Coyotes -- and neither skated Saturday morning.
Here are the projected lineups:
Notes: Hejduk will play what could be his final NHL game. The 37-year-old is in the final year of his contract and has four goals and seven assists in 28 games this season. The remaining member of the Avalanche's 2001 Stanley Cup winning team, he ranks second in franchise history in games played (1,019), fourth in goals (375) and points (805), and fifth in assists (430) … The Avalanche have gone 4-2-2 in their past eight games but will miss the playoffs for the third year in a row … Varlamov, who turned 25 Saturday, is expected to start in goal.
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