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Avalanche aim to advance past Wild in Game 6

by Dan Myers


(Colorado leads best-of-7 series 3-2)


Big story: The Colorado Avalanche will try to eliminate the Minnesota Wild and advance to the Western Conference Second Round with a win Monday night at Xcel Energy Center.

Minnesota, which has played its best games of the series on home ice, will look to avoid elimination in St. Paul.

"Our season depends on [Monday]," Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper said.

Team Scope:

Avalanche: Colorado stole the momentum in the series by winning Game 5 and held serve on home ice. Now, the Avalanche will look to become the first road team in the series to win a game. Colorado has been without Matt Duchene, who led the Avalanche with 70 points in the regular season, since sustaining a left knee injury at the end of March. But after several days of talk and light skating, he could be ready to rejoin the lineup. After initially believed to be out for this series, Duchene joined his teammates in line rushes during the morning skate prior to Game 5. He also participated in battle drills, another encouraging sign.

"We're going to be patient," Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said Sunday. "We're going to see how he feels after the morning skate. Then we'll make a decision."

That decision will apparently be drawn out until later Monday, as Roy termed Duchene a game-time decision after the morning skate, which saw him on the second line between left wing Ryan O'Reilly and right wing PA Parenteau.

Duchene would give the Avalanche a true center on their second scoring line and help to alleviate some of the pressure on Colorado's top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Paul Stastny and Nathan MacKinnon. It would also allow O'Reilly to move back to wing, where he has been much more comfortable during the course of this series.

Wild: Minnesota will look to draw upon its experiences this season of playing under less than ideal circumstances. When that's been the case, the Wild have seemingly responded by playing some of their best hockey. Although not entirely the same, captain Mikko Koivu compared Game 6 to Games 3 and 4, when Minnesota came back from Denver down 2-0 in the series.

"I thought that was a similar situation," Koivu said. "Obviously, we recognize what's on the line. It's all about preparation right now and we'll be ready when the puck drops."

Minnesota missed out on chances to put Colorado away late in Game 5 and fell short in overtime.

"We're frustrated with the way we played. I think we can play better," defenseman Ryan Suter said. "To have a chance at the end of that game to win it, [it] was kind of a surprise with the way we played. I didn't think we played that well."

Who's hot: Wild forward Zach Parise scored his first goal of the series in Game 5 and leads the Wild with six points in the series. … All MacKinnon needed to get back on track was a trip home. After scoring seven points through the first two games, MacKinnon was blanked in Games 3 and 4. He had two assists and the overtime goal in Game 5 for his third three-point game of the series.

Injury report: Forward Jason Zucker (quad), defenseman Keith Ballard (groin) and goaltenders Josh Harding (illness) and Niklas Backstrom (abdominal) are out for the Wild. … Avalanche defensemen Tyson Barrie (knee) and Cory Sarich (back), forwards John Mitchell (concussion) and Alex Tanguay (hip) are out.

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