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Avalanche, Wild continue battle for playoff positioning

by Eric Goodman
WILD (23-18-7) at AVALANCHE (26-22-2)


Last 10:
Minnesota 3-6-1; Colorado 5-4-1

Season series:
This is the third of six meetings between these Northwest Division clubs. Both previous games this season were played at Minnesota with the Wild earning a 1-0 victory off a Devin Setoguchi goal back on Nov. 17 and the Avs taking the most recent game on Dec. 26 by a 4-2 score. Colorado received goals from four different players the last time it faced the Wild, including a power-play tally from Ryan O'Reilly and the game-winning goal by Gabriel Landeskog.

Big Story:
Both the Wild and Avs play the last game on their respective schedules before the All-Star break and a regulation win by either team would put them into the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Minnesota will try to avoid a franchise-record 12th-straight road loss, while Colorado will attempt to improve upon a 10-2-0 home record since Nov. 30. 

Team Scope:

As of Monday, Minnesota sat just one point behind the Avalanche for eighth place in the West despite going 2-6-1 in its last nine games. While the Wild averaged just 1.28 goals a game over those seven losses, they did put up a total of 10 goals in the two wins.

Coach Mike Yeo and company will look for a similar effort to last Saturday's contest, in which Minnesota closed out the game with four unanswered goals to defeat the Dallas Stars 5-2.

"As the game went on we had that feeling that we were just going to keep getting better," Yeo said. "It was a lively bench. Everybody was engaged in that game and everybody was going out, doing things the same way and the right way."

Avalanche: Colorado will return home after splitting a brief weekend trip to California. The Avs defeated the Kings on Saturday but lost 3-2 to Anaheim on Sunday, despite outshooting the Ducks 45-18.

The Avalanche made a valiant late-game effort to rally, but their two third-period goals weren't enough to dig out of the 3-0 hole they dug themselves due to shorthanded, power-play and regulation tallies by the Ducks.

"We deserved better tonight," goalie Jean-Sebastian Giguere told following Sunday's loss. "But we played a pretty good road game. We controlled the play for most of the game and had a couple of breakdowns that they capitalized on. These things happen and key for us is to move on."

Who's Hot: Giguere is 3-1-1 in his last five starts, with a 2.20 goals-against average over that span. … On Saturday, Wild winger Dany Heatley recorded his first multi-point game since the Dec. 26 win against Colorado by notching a goal and two assists in the victory over Dallas. He has 17 points (4g, 13a) in 16 career games vs. the Avs.

Injury Report:
Minnesota will be without captain Mikko Koivu (upper body) and forwards Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Guillaume Latendresse (concussions). … For Colorado, winger Matt Duchene will remain out as he recovers from a knee injury that has sidelined him since Dec. 29.
Stat Pack:
If Minnesota is to break free of its road woes, then Colorado appears to be the right place to do it. The Wild are 8-1-2 in their last 11 visits to Pepsi Center.

Puck Drop:
Despite the cold streak on the road, the Wild are well aware that they can get right back into the mix with a few wins over fellow playoff competitors like the Avalanche.

"It's a team that we are right with in the playoff race, and it's a huge game," Minnesota's Matt Cullen told reporters after practice.

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