Avalanche try to gain on Wild in Northwest Division
AVALANCHE (10-11-4) at WILD (13-10-2)
TV: ALTITUDE, FS-North, FS-Wisconsin
Last 10: Colorado 3-4-3; Minnesota 6-4-0
Season series: This is the third of five meetings between these Northwest Division clubs. The Wild hold the advantage at 1-0-1, with those games played at Minnesota.
Big story: The Wild are trying to find some consistency after splitting their first six games in March. The Avalanche have struggled on the road recently, going winless in six straight games away from Pepsi Center.
Avalanche: Colorado makes a quick stop in Minnesota before another three straight games at Pepsi Center, starting Saturday with the Wild on the back end of the home-and-home series. With a two-point lead on the last place Calgary Flames as of Wednesday, the Avalanche are desperate for a win.
If the Avalanche are going to get back in the Stanley Cup Playoff hunt, they must cut down on the number of shots allowed per game. As of Wednesday, Colorado has given up the second most shots in the Western Conference with an average of 32.2 a game. Their 4-0 loss against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday was one they would like to forget. The Avalanche had won the first two of their three-game homestand.
"After two emotional wins, we have to feed off them and keep it going, especially here at home," captain Gabriel Landeskog told NHL.com. "But we let them get away with a 2-0 lead and then 3-0, and then it's an uphill battle. There are no easy teams in this League and we know that. We just have to put this one behind us."
Wild: Minnesota wraps up a three-game homestand seeking its fifth win in the past six games at Xcel Energy Center. The Wild were hanging on to the last playoff spot in the West as of Wednesday and cannot afford a loss to the Avalanche.
Despite outshooting the Anaheim Ducks 22-7 over the first two periods of their game Tuesday, the Wild could only build a 1-0 lead. When Anaheim forward Corey Perry's elbow connected with Jason Zucker's head in the second period, it appeared as if all the air went out for Minnesota.
Zucker left the game and did not return, and Perry was assessed a game misconduct for the interference penalty and was suspended four games by the NHL on Wednesday. Once things settled after the incident, the Ducks roared back in the third to outshoot the Wild 14-7 and got two goals from the unlikely scoring combination of Patrick Maroon and Luca Sbisa to grab the 2-1 road win.
"After that point, I think it's fair to say we were a different team," Wild coach Mike Yeo told NHL.com regarding the hit on Zucker. "We kind of looked like a team that went from going for the throat to all of a sudden being maybe being weary of what we were losing."
Who's hot: Avalanche forward Matt Duchene has four goals and three assists over his past four games. ... Wild captain Mikko Koivu has a goal and five assists over the past five games.
Injury report: Avalanche forward Milan Hejduk (torso) has missed the past five games and remains listed as day-to-day. Forward Steve Downie (knee surgery) is out for the season. ... Zucker was skating in a track suit during the Wild's practice Wednesday, but his status for Thursday is questionable. Goalies Josh Harding (illness) and Darcy Kuemper (groin) are on injured reserve.