The Central-Division rival Minnesota Wild will make its first regular-season appearance at Pepsi Center on Saturday, as the Colorado Avalanche hosts its first afternoon game of the season. It will also be the team's annual Hockey Fights Cancer game, as the Avs will raise awareness while honoring and recognizing those who have battled or are fighting cancer.
The game is also the first of a weekend back-to-back, as Colorado travels to St. Louis for an afternoon tilt with the Blues on Sunday. The Avs, who play 11 total sets of back-to-back games this season, are 1-1 in the first game when playing two in a row.
Last Time Out
Despite outshooting the Blackhawks 38-21 and posting a season high in shots on goal, the Avalanche (4-5-0, T-6th Central Division) fell 4-0 to Chicago on Thursday night at United Center. Five different players recorded at least four shots on goal, but Corey Crawford was there to stop each one.
"Start to finish, good effort. Again, there's a handful of mistakes that cost us," said head coach Jared Bednar following Thursday's game. "We're not going to be celebrating losses, that's for sure, but at the end of the day if we continue to play like that and clean up a couple mistakes, find a way to bury a chance or two, that's what we have to do."
The Wild lost 2-1 to the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night and has had a three-day break leading up to today's game in Denver. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk had a three-game shutout streak snapped when Buffalo's Ryan O'Reilly scored in the first period. Mikael Granlund scored the lone goal for the Wild, which came on the power play in the middle frame.
Video: Lauren and Mark preview Saturday's game
Stacking Up: Offense and Defense
The Avalanche has scored 20 goals through its first nine games, but 14 of those tallies came in the team's first four contests. Colorado is averaging 2.22 goals per game and will face a tough challenge in Minnesota, which is tied for second in the league with the Washington Capitals in goals against, allowing just 2.10 per game.
Offensively, the Wild also rank among the league's top teams (fifth) with 33 goals in its first 10 contests of the season.
Stacking Up: Special Teams
The Avalanche's power play currently sits at 15th overall in the league at 19.4 percent. The penalty kill has been strong in Colorado's last six games, as the Avs have been successful in 22 of their last 24 penalty kills.
The PK has also been a strength for the Wild, which ranks first in the NHL with an overwhelming 96.3-percent success rate. Minnesota has allowed just one power-play goal in its first 10 games of the season, but it is also one of the least penalized teams, having been shorthanded a league-low 27 times. The Wild's power play ranks 20th with five goals in 31 man-advantage opportunities (16.1 percent).
Player to Watch
Colorado: Gabriel Landeskog
The Avalanche captain has recorded two goals and three assists so far this season, including one game-winner. He's also had some success against Minnesota with eight goals and nine assists in 25 career games in the series.
Minnesota: Devan Dubnyk
Named the NHL's Second Star of the Week on Monday, Dubnyk posted three consecutive shutout wins before Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres. He has a 1.51 goals against average and a .948 save percentage in eight starts.
The Avalanche is 41-36-12 all-time against the Wild and 22-19-4 in games played at home in the series. Jarome Iginla is the league's all-time leader in points (71) and goals (39) against Minnesota. He also ranks first in all-time games played (81), time on ice (1705:46) and game-winning tallies (10) versus the Wild.
With 17 career points each against Minnesota, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog are tied for seventh in Avalanche history in all-time scoring against the Wild.
This afternoon matinee is slated to begin at 1 p.m. MT and tickets are still available. Fans are asked to be in their seats at 12:45 p.m. for a ceremonial faceoff and to stay for a special glow stick ceremony in support of Hockey Fights Cancer during the first intermission.
The game can be watched live on Altitude and listened to on AM 950 and ColoradoAvalanche.com.