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Avs Close Out Home Slate With Fan Appreciation Night

by Danielle Bernstein / ColoradoAvalanche.com

Lexus Preview: Avs vs. Minnesota

Keefe and Rycroft preview Thursday's game

Mark Rycroft and Kyle Keefe preview Thursday's game, which is the Avalanche's final contest at Pepsi Center this year

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The Colorado Avalanche plays its home finale on Thursday night, hosting the Minnesota Wild at Pepsi Center. It's the fifth and final contest between the Central Division rivals, who last faced each other on Sunday at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.

Colorado and Minnesota haven't squared off in Denver since Nov. 5, and Thursday's contest is the last of two that will be played at Pepsi Center this season. The Avalanche is 2-2-0 against the Wild in 2016-17 after winning the first two games of the series and falling in the most recent two meetings.

Overall, the Avs are 43-38-12 against the Wild, which includes a 23-19-4 mark on home ice in the all-time series. 

 

Last Time Out

The Avalanche is coming off a come-from-behind 4-3 overtime win over the Western Conference-leading Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night at Pepsi Center. Colorado trailed 3-0 and scored four unanswered tallies to secure the victory, its largest comeback win of the season. Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog registered short-handed goals and Erik Johnson potted his fourth career overtime marker. Duchene finished with a tally and two assists to lead the Avs, who peppered Scott Darling with a season-high 51 shots.

Minnesota is also coming off a win on Tuesday night, topping the Carolina Hurricanes 5-3. Nino Neiderreiter scored twice and added an assist while Zach Parise also had a three-point night with a goal and two helpers. The Wild held a 36-30 advantage in shots, and Devan Dubnyk finished with 27 saves. The Wild have points in five of its last six outings.

 

Last Time They Met

The Wild scored twice in the first 5:27 of Sunday evening's matchup and led 3-1 after the opening period en route to a 5-2 win over the Avalanche. Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen found the back of the net for Colorado, which outshot the Wild 32-28, including an 11-2 margin in the third frame. The Avs were scoreless on two power-play opportunities while Minnesota finished on one of their two extra-man chances.

 

What to Watch

Faceoff Battle

Thursday's matchup pits two of the league's top faceoff teams against each other in the Avalanche, which ranks second in overall faceoff win percentage (53.8), and the Wild, which is tied for sixth (51.8).

Colorado also holds an edge in offensive zone faceoff win percentage, where it ranks first in the NHL with a 56.1 success rate. Minnesota clocks in at 53.4 percent in offensive zone win percentage, which ranks sixth.

Home Finale

The Avalanche looks to close out the home portion of its 2016-17 schedule on a high note Thursday. Colorado has won its last two contests at Pepsi Center, both over playoff-bound teams in the St. Louis Blues and the Blackhawks.

It's also Fan Appreciation Night, as the Avs will honor supporters with prizes throughout the evening, including a special "Jersey Off Our Backs" presentation postgame.

 

Player to Watch

Colorado: Center Matt Duchene

Duchene notched a goal and two assists against the Blackhawks on Tuesday, including a highlight-reel worthy backhand pass to Mikhail Grigorenko for the equalizing tally in the third period. Duchene's goal was one of Colorado's two shorthanded tallies of the night and his first short-handed tally since Oct. 30, 2009 at San Jose, just 14 games into his rookie campaign. With three points, Duchene also moved up the franchise record list, taking sole possession of 10th place on the all-time points list with 417.

Minnesota: Left wing Zach Parise

Parise enters Thursday's contest on a two-game goal streak, including a marker in Sunday's matchup with Colorado. He now has 31 points (14 goals, 17 assists) in 28 career games against the Avs. With 26 of those points coming as a member of the Wild, he ranks fourth in franchise history in points against Colorado.

 

The Details

Puck drop for Thursday's home finale is at 7 p.m., and tickets are still available. It's also the final chance for fans to grab autographed items at great prices in the Community Clear Out event. Memorabilia will be available for purchase outside section 140 throughout the match and all proceeds benefit Kroenke Sports Charities.

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