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Avalanche hope to ride home-ice sweep to series win

by Dan Myers


(Best-of-7 series tied 3-3)


Big story: The Minnesota Wild will try to become the first road team to win a game this Western Conference First Round series against the Colorado Avalanche. Each team is 3-0 on home ice.

History says the game is going to be close; 12 of the past 15 Stanley Cup Playoff games between the Wild and Avalanche have been decided by one goal. That includes two games in this series when empty-net goals late have increased the final score.

Minnesota defeated Colorado 3-2 in overtime in the only Game 7 the teams have played against each other, in 2003. It was the final game in the playing career of Avalanche coach Patrick Roy.

Team Scope:

Wild: Minnesota is confident heading into Game 7. The Wild are coming off a 5-2 win in Game 6 and have been very competitive at Pepsi Center in this series. Minnesota held a two-goal third-period lead in Game 1 and led in the final minutes of Game 5. Colorado scored extra-attacker goals late to force overtime, and the Avalanche won each game in extra time.

"We have to be excited about this opportunity and go in there and play our best game of the series," coach Mike Yeo said. "We are going there with a real purpose in how we play that game. So it's going to be fun."

The series is the only one in either conference in which the road team has not won at least one game. At home, Minnesota had the advantage of being able to match lines in order to slow Colorado's top group. In Game 6, Yeo looked ahead to a potential deciding game and said he didn't care who was matched up with whom.

"For us to win [Game 6], I knew we weren't going to get the matchups we needed. Everybody needs to know they can play against anybody," Yeo said. "I guess I just hope we're due. You'd like to think the road team has a chance of winning a game."

Avalanche: After falling behind in Game 6, Colorado did a lot of good things. The Avalanche scored a shorthanded goal to steal momentum and added a power-play goal, their first since a Game 2 empty-netter.

It certainly helped having forward Matt Duchene back in the lineup. Roy said prior to Game 6 he expected Duchene to play limited minutes after missing nearly a month with a knee injury. But the early deficit changed Roy's plans, and Duchene stepped up, assisting on a goal and playing nearly 19 minutes.

"At 2-0, you put the plan in the garbage can," Roy said.

Expect to see even more of Duchene, who led the Avalanche with 70 points during the regular season. After starting Game 6 on the fourth line, Duchene quickly moved up to the second line and played some with Ryan O'Reilly and PA Parenteau. Roy said that's where Duchene will begin Game 7.

"I thought he had a really good game," Roy said. "It would have been normal for him to be a little bit rusty, but I thought he played outstanding."

Who's hot: Wild forward Zach Parise scored two goals and assisted on two in Game 6. He has three goals in the past two games and is tied with Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon with 10 points for the NHL lead in the 2014 playoffs. … Avalanche forward Paul Stastny scored on a shorthanded breakaway in Game 6, his first goal of the series away from Denver. He leads this series with four goals and has five assists.

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

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