WILD (23-18-7) at AVALANCHE (26-22-2)
TV: NBCSP (HD)
Minnesota 3-6-1; Colorado 5-4-1
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
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.
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."
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 NHL.com 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."
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.
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.
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.
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.