ST. PAUL, Minn.—Entering its quick two-games-in-two-days road trip against divisional foes, the Colorado Avalanche knew nothing would come easy, especially against opponents fighting for a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The first half of the back-to-back set concluded on Saturday night, as Colorado lost 1-0 to the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. The Avalanche will now look to close out the trip on a high note as it plays at the Winnipeg Jets on Sunday at 4 p.m. MT.
"It makes it a tougher trip when you lose the first game obviously," said Colorado head coach Patrick Roy, "but at the same time we have to regroup and find a way to get something going tomorrow."
Goaltender Semyon Varlamov was once again strong in net for the Avalanche, making 28 saves, including 16 in the first period.
The only puck that beat him was a point shot by Marco Scandella that was redirected in front by Charlie Coyle at 11:21 of the first period.
"The guys, they played very well. I think we have been playing very well defensively for a while," Varlamov said after the game. "I saw a lot of shots today from the blue line, which is always important for me. That's why I think they only scored one goal."
After Coyle's tally, the Avs goalie was back to his usual self as the puck wasn't able to find twine for the remainder of the contest. He entered the day with a 9-5-2 record, a 2.10 goals-against average and .943 save percentage in his last 16 games.
"He played really good. No doubt. He was solid," said Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog of his netminder. "That is the way he has been playing lately and kept us in there for sure."
The Wild had two power-play opportunities in the first period, but Varlamov stopped all four shots he faced, helping the penalty-kill unit keep the Avs in the game.
Colorado outshot Minnesota in the final 40 minutes (14-12) and finished with two man-advantage chances of its own, but couldn't find the equalizer.
"Our best player on the penalty kill is Varly," Roy said. "They had a lot of good shots in the first period. I thought in the second and third we were much better. They did a good job killing it, but this is a night where we expect them to have a good start. … We had our chance to come back in the game, and bottom line it was a 1-0 game."
The Wild (56 points) jump past the Avs (55 points) in the standings for the time being, but Colorado can make up the loss and gain ground on the Jets on Sunday. Winnipeg (62 points) presently holds the seventh spot in the West and the first wild card position, but the team has lost its last six games (0-4-2).
Colorado is 1-2 against the Jets this season, which included losses in Manitoba of 2-1 in overtime on Oct. 26 and 6-2 on Dec. 5.
"It is what it is. We have to forget about this game and look forward and be ready for the game tomorrow," Varlamov said. "It's going to be a big game, another division game tomorrow so we'll just have to be ready and prepare ourselves."
Varlamov is expected to get the nod in between the pipes. It would be his 10th straight start and 18th in his last 19 games.
BARRIE MISSES SECOND STRAIGHT, ELLIOTT STAYS IN
Defenseman Stefan Elliott was back in the Avalanche lineup Saturday night as a hip flexor injury once again forced fellow blueliner Tyson Barrie to be scratched for the second consecutive game.
Barrie missed his first contest of the season on Thursday against Detroit because of the injury, but Roy did say he was hopeful that the offensive D-man would play in Minnesota. His status for Sunday's game against the Jets is unknown.
The Victoria, British Columbia native leads all Colorado defensemen in scoring with 30 points (five goals, 25 assists) this season.
Barrie did take part in a skating and drill session after the Avalanche's formal morning skate on Saturday. He was joined on the ice with assistant coach Tim Army, video coach Mario Duhamel, goalie Reto Berra and defenseman Karl Stollery, who was recalled from Lake Erie earlier in the day as insurance for the team while Barrie is out.
Elliott made his season debut against the Red Wings after being recalled from the American Hockey League a week earlier on Jan. 29. Saturday's contest marked the 60th of his NHL career.
"It was really nice to come in here early," Elliott said prior to the game against the Wild. "Get a couple of practices under my belt, and just get accustomed to everything. Definitely made me feel a little more comfortable."
Elliott was again paired on defense with Nate Guenin during five-on-five situations and finished the game with three shots on goal while seeing 15:16 of ice time.