ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Colorado Avalanche leads Minnesota Wild 2-0 in its first-round matchup, but the series is far from over.
After picking up wins at home in the first two games, Colorado will look to take a stranglehold on the series tonight in Game 3 (5 p.m. MT, TV: Altitude, NHL Network, TSN, RDS) at Xcel Energy Center. However getting that third win isn't going to be easy.
"These are the toughest ones to get," said Avs veteran Maxime Talbot on winning the third and fourth games of a series. "The team on the other side will play definitely desperate. For us, it's working hard, doing the right things over and over again."
The Avalanche had a thrilling come-from-behind victory in overtime in Game 1 and a fairly dominant 4-2 win in Game 2 on Saturday, but the team is staying grounded and is not looking past this evening's contest.
Forward Ryan O'Reilly said the Avs aren't lacking in confidence, but they are also not overconfident against a hungry Wild squad.
"Last game we played a great defensive game all around," O'Reilly said. "We did a lot of good things. I think if we carry those over and make a few little adjustments we'll be OK.
"We know we have to take it one game at a time. This is just the beginning for us, and we want to go deep here (in the playoffs)."
Head coach Patrick Roy said he isn't going to make any lineup changes tonight, which means Matt Duchene (injured), John Mitchell (injured), Cory Sarich (injured) Reto Berra, Ryan Wiulson and Stefan Elliott are likely to be the scratches.
The Avalanche received great fans support in its home games as the crowd at Pepsi Center was loud and raucous throughout both contests.
Now it’s the Wild's turn at home ice, and Roy said he expects a similar atmosphere for Minnesota.
"The start of the game will be key to us," Roy said. "Their fans will be behind them, and it should be a loud building. It will be important for us to do things very simple and get going after that."
Avalanche forward Matt Duchene skated Monday morning for the first time since suffering a knee injury on March 29 against San Jose.
|Matt Duchene |
The Avs forward didn't participate in any practice drill, but he was on the ice with the team doing different skating, stickhandling and passing activities.
"That was part of the process," Roy said. "The trainer thought it was a good time for him to start skating today. We'll go day to day with him on the skating, and if he improves we'll see if he can get involved in practices."
Roy said on Tuesday before the Avs' flight to Minnesota that the team was not going to rush Duchene back, and he said before Saturday's Game 2 that it would be unlikely for the skilled forward to return in the series.
Duchene was expected to miss roughly four weeks and has now been out of the lineup for 23 days.
Despite missing the final eight games of the season, Duchene still led the Avalanche in scoring. He had career highs with 70 points and 47 assists this year, and six of his 23 goals were game-winners, tied for the most on the team.
MORE MORNING NOTES
- Semyon Varlamov will get the start in net this evening for Colorado. He made 30 saves in the Game 2 win on Saturday.
- John Mitchell is on the trip in Minnesota with the team. Roy said he has started exercising, but there is still no timetable for his return from an upper-body injury.
- Roy said Nathan MacKinnon would remain on the right side with center Paul Stastny and left wing Gabriel Landeskog. MacKinnon has also had success with Ryan O'Reilly and PA Parenteau as a center this season, but Roy said he going to start tonight's contest with what worked last game. The Landeskog-Stastny-MacKinnon lines combined for four goals and 10 points in Game 2.