The Colorado Avalanche travels to Minnesota to tangle with the Wild on Friday, the first matchup of the season between the Central Division rivals. Both teams enter Friday's contest coming off a win on Wednesday night and are in a four-way tie for fourth place in the division with 23 points.
The Avs and Wild will meet four times in 2017-18. Colorado has a 43-39-3-9 overall record against Minnesota and is 20-19-1-7 as the road team in the series. The Avs last win at Xcel Energy Center came just over a year ago, a 3-2 victory on Nov. 19, 2016.
Last Time Out
Colorado Avalanche (3), Dallas Stars (0)
The Avalanche earned a division win over the Dallas Stars on Wednesday night at Pepsi Center. Nathan MacKinnon powered the offense with a three-assist night, and Colorado's top line was dominant again, contributing six points (one goal, five assists) in the win. Jonathan Bernier picked up his first shutout of the season and the 15th of his career with the 3-0 victory.
Minnesota Wild (5), Buffalo Sabres (4)
Mikael Granlund and Nino Niederreiter each scored twice to propel the Wild to a 5-4 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Wednesday at KeyBank Center in Buffalo. Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter each tallied two assists, and Devan Dubnyk finished with 30 saves. Minnesota was 2-for-3 on the power play while holding the Sabres scoreless on three man-advantage opportunities.
Last Time They Met
Colorado and Minnesota last squared off on April 6, 2017 in what was the regular-season home finale for the Avs. The Wild jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the opening period, but the Avalanche scored twice in the middle frame, including Tyson Jost's first NHL marker, to knot the game after 40 minutes of play. The final stanza belonged to the Wild, who took a 4-2 lead and ultimately held on to win 4-3. Niederreiter and Nate Prosser each notched a goal and an assist for Minnesota.
The clubs met twice during the preseason, with both teams winning at home.
What to Watch
Erik Johnson and Nail Yakupov each scored in Colorado's win over Dallas on Wednesday to extend their respective goal streaks to two games. For Johnson, it's the first time he's tallied in back-to-back contests since Feb. 14-17, 2016 (at Buffalo, vs. Montreal). Yakupov's marker gave him seven on the season, which is tied for second on the team. Nathan MacKinnon continued his offensive tear with a three-point night against the Stars and now has 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) in his last 10 appearances.
Mikael Granlund enters Friday's contest on a five-game point streak (four goals, five assists) while Nino Niederreiter has recorded points in seven consecutive contests (six goals, two assists).
Friday's tilt is the first game of a back-to-back set for both teams. The Avs host the Calgary Flames on Saturday night while the Wild travels to St. Louis for another Central-Division matchup versus the Blues.
This is the sixth of 11 back-to-back sets for Colorado this season. The Avalanche is 2-2-1 in the first contest while the Wild, which is playing its third set of two games in two nights, is 0-2-0 in the first contest.
Player to Watch
Colorado: Right Wing Mikko Rantanen
Rantanen registered two assists in Colorado's win over Dallas on Wednesday and has collected seven points (two goals, five assists) in his last four outings, skating on the Avs top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. He has four points (two goals and two assists) in six career contests against the Wild.
Minnesota: Right Wing Nino Niederreiter
Niederreiter enters Friday's contest on a five-game goal streak (six goals total), four-game power-play goal streak (four) and a seven-game point streak (six goals, two assists), all career-long marks. A tally on Friday would match the longest goal streak in Wild history.
Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov practiced with the team on Thursday, his first since being out with an illness, but didn't make the trip to Minnesota. Jonathan Bernier will make his third straight start in net for Colorado, while recently-recalled netminder Andrew Hammond will serve as the backup.
Friday afternoon's game between the Avs and the Wild is at 2 p.m. MT and can be watched live on Altitude TV. The radio broadcast can be heard on Altitude Sports Radio AM950 or online at ColoradoAvalanche.com.