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At the Rink: Wild at Avalanche

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- The Minnesota Wild have had their way with the Colorado Avalanche this season, outscoring them 9-0 in the first three games. But Wild coach Mike Yeo isn't taking anything for granted at Pepsi Center on Saturday.

"I'm expecting their best tonight," Yeo said. "I'm expecting probably the hardest game."

The Wild defeated the Avalanche 5-0, 3-0 and 1-0 in the first three games, outshooting them by a combined 111-64. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, no NHL team has shut out the same team four consecutive times in the same season since 1928, when the Pittsburgh Pirates did it against the Boston Bruins.

Minnesota (32-22-7) has moved into the first wild-card spot for the Stanley Cup Playoffs in the Western Conference, one point ahead of the Los Angeles Kings. Colorado (27-24-11) is five points behind the Kings, who hold the second wild-card spot.

The Wild have gone 4-1-0 in their past five games and 14-3-1 with goalie Devan Dubnyk, who was acquired Jan. 14 from the Arizona Coyotes for a third-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft. Dubnyk will make his 20th consecutive start Saturday, tying the franchise record set by Niklas Backstrom in 2009.

Minnesota was 18-19-5 when it traded for Dubnyk, who has a 1.68 goals-against average and .934 save percentage and five shutouts in 19 starts. He made 18 saves in a 1-0 win against the Avalanche on Feb. 7 at the Xcel Energy Center and is 9-5-1 against Colorado with two shutouts in his career.

Yeo said the Wild have elevated their play in every area since Dubnyk's arrival.

"In part just because of that, because we have the confidence that if there is a breakdown, if there is a mistake, he's been there to help us out, to back us up," Yeo said. "There's been a better focus of everybody else on their jobs and a concentration on playing our game and more trust that if we do that, the result will take care of itself."

The Avalanche didn't skate after defeating the Dallas Stars 5-4 in a shootout Friday.

Coach Patrick Roy benched right wing Nathan MacKinnon for most of the third period and overtime. MacKinnon, who played a season low 12:35, didn't take part in the shootout.

Roy said after the game that he would use the top three lines Saturday that he played during the end of the game in Dallas. That would put MacKinnon on the fourth line with Marc-Andre Cliche and Paul Carey.

Here are the projected lineups:


Sean Bergenheim - Mikko Koivu - Thomas Vanek

Zach Parise - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Nino Niederreiter - Charlie Coyle - Jordan Schroeder

Erik Haula - Kyle Brodziak - Justin Fontaine

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba

Nate Prosser - Christian Folin

Devan Dubnyk

Niklas Backstrom

Scratched: Michael Keranen, Darcy Kuemper, Stephane Veilleux

Injured: Keith Ballard (concussion), Ryan Carter (upper body), Matt Cooke (sports hernia), Jared Spurgeon (head), Jason Zucker (collarbone)


Gabriel Landeskog - Ryan O'Reilly - Maxime Talbot

Cody McLeod - Matt Duchene - Jarome Iginla

Alex Tanguay - John Mitchell - Dennis Everberg

Paul Carey - Marc-Andre Cliche - Nathan MacKinnon

Jan Hejda - Zach Redmond

Nate Guenin - Tyson Barrie

Brad Stuart - Nick Holden

Semyon Varlamov

Reto Berra

Scratched: Daniel Briere

Injured: Patrick Bordeleau (fractured kneecap), Erik Johnson (knee), Jamie McGinn (back surgery), Borna Rendulic (broken leg), Ryan Wilson (shoulder), Jesse Winchester (concussion)

Status report: Veilleux cleared waivers Saturday but is remaining on the Wild roster for now ... Yeo said Spurgeon, who will miss his fifth consecutive game, is "feeling better" and would try to work out off the ice Saturday.

Who's hot: Fontaine has three goals and two assists in the past five games ... O'Reilly has five assists on a four-game point streak ... Duchene has one goal and three assists on a three-game point streak.

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