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Avs Look For Strong Start Versus Minnesota

The division rivals last met at Pepsi Center on Jan. 6

by Callie Parmele / ColoradoAvalanche.com

The Colorado Avalanche will look to come out of the gates swinging tonight against the Central Division-rival Minnesota Wild at Pepsi Center.

The Wild is playing in the second half of a back-to-back set, the third-straight team that Colorado has faced that has played the night prior.

"[Our start] is going to have to be strong," said Gabriel Landeskog. "When we come out strong and have a good first five, 10 minutes in the first period, we can usually find ways to carry that momentum into the rest of the game so we got to find a way to come out strong tonight as well."

Colorado is sixth in the league with a 28-6-2 record when it scores first while Minnesota is 10th, going 25-5-4.

"You got to take care of your two points, you got to respect the two points that are on the table for us tonight," said head coach Jared Bednar. "We are at home, they are coming off a game last night and they lost. Hopefully we can jump on them early, but they will be a hungry team tonight."

With less than 20 games remaining in the season, the Avalanche is fighting for a playoff spot and every contest matters, especially outings against Western Conference opponents.

"Every division game is a four-point game that matters a lot," said Landeskog. "I think especially coming down the stretch and knowing how important these points are going to be. Here at home ice, we got to make sure we take care of business, that's really it, no matter who we are playing."

Video: Gabriel Landeskog on facing the Wild

The Wild is 7-2-1 in its last 10 outings and holds the third spot in the Central Division standings. It is the third time that the division foes are meeting this season, with the last outing resulting in a 7-2 Avalanche victory at Pepsi Center on Jan. 6.

"They are a physical team and same as last game, we have to step up with the same thing. I think we are absolutely able to in this room," said Anton Lindholm. "This is our home ice and we know that they played last night, so we want to come out with a really good start and take the momentum of the game and just make sure that we are ready to put in the work and really be on top of them."

Lindholm has missed the Avalanche's last five games after getting hurt with an upper-body injury in Colorado's contest against the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 18.

The Skelleftea, Sweden, native has three assists in 43 games this season and will be paired on defense with Duncan Siemens, who scored his first NHL goal against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday at Pepsi Center.

"[Lindholm] has been skating for quite a while… I think he was off the ice six days total with that injury, and some of that was spent in the gym working out too," said Bednar. "He is one of those guys you don't really worry about his conditioning too much, it's just getting back into the flow of the game and making the right reads and kind of getting up to speed that way. We will monitor him early, but we are pretty confident in what he can do."

Video: Anton Lindholm on returning to the lineup

HOME ICE ADVANTAGE

Tonight's contest is the third of a four-game homestand and Colorado is 2-0-0 so far on this homestay, defeating Vancouver 3-1 on Monday and Calgary 5-2 on Wednesday.

The Avs are 12-1-0 in their last 13 games in the Mile High City, outscoring their opponents 48-21 during the stretch. It marks the first time that the Avalanche has won 12 out of 13 home games.

The Avalanche is 22-8-1 on home ice this season and averages 3.55 goals-per game, which ranks fifth in the league, and has the NHL's best home penalty-kill percentage at 92.9 percent. The Avs are in a stretch that find them playing 11-of-17 at Pepsi Center.

EUROLANCHE INVASION

Five members from Eurolanche, a European fan club of the Avalanche, will be at Pepsi Center tonight for the third of seven games that make up its Invasion X.

Invasion X is the 10th journey the club has taken to Denver and will also include trips to see the Avalanche's games at the Chicago Blackhawks and Columbus Blue Jackets next week.

Eurolanche also attended both of the Avs' games versus the Ottawa Senators this season in Stockholm, Sweden, as part of the 2017 NHL Global Series.

PROJECTED LINEUP

Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar did not mention his forward combinations for tonight's game but below are the anticipated lines and defense pairings.

Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Tyson Jost - Alexander Kerfoot - Colin Wilson
Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Blake Comeau
Gabriel Bourque - Dominic Toninato - J.T. Compher

Nikita Zadorov - Tyson Barrie
Patrik Nemeth - Samuel Girard
Duncan Siemens - Anton Lindholm

Semyon Varlamov
Spencer Martin

Video: Avs coach Jared Bednar after morning skate

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