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Avalanche-Wild Preview

GAME: Colorado Avalanche (21-17-3) at Minnesota Wild (19-17-4).

TIME: Thursday, 8 p.m. EST.

Less than a month ago, goaltender Dwayne Roloson struggled as much as his Minnesota Wild teammates as they languished near the bottom of the Western Conference.

Now, Roloson and the Wild try to continue their strong play as they open a seven-game homestand against the Colorado Avalanche.

Roloson overcame the flu to make 43 saves and lead the Wild to their fifth win in six games, a 4-2 defeat Tuesday over the Detroit Red Wings. Minnesota has won seven of its last nine to tighten the Northwest Division standings and trails Colorado by three points for fourth.

"Trying to get through that (the flu-like symptoms)," said Roloson, who made 19 third-period saves. "Battle through it. It's always nice to get a win, especially against these guys."

Roloson started in place of an ailing Manny Fernandez, who was also experiencing flu-like symptoms. Roloson also helped the Wild kill off five of the Red Wings six power plays in the first two periods.

"He was awesome. Third period, he made save after save after save," said Wild center Brian Rolston. "It's not surprising, but it was huge to get the win for him."

Rolston, who has a team-high 18 goals, added the game-winning goal and an assist, while Andrei Zyuzin, Filip Kuba and Alexandre Daigle each added a goal.

Avalanche goalie David Aebischer snapped a personal four-game losing streak in Tuesday's 3-0 win over Nashville. The veteran had 32 stops for his second shutout of the season and 12th of his career.

"It was awesome for Abby," teammate Bob Boughner said. "There's been a lot of scrutiny the last few weeks with our goaltending. They just need some confidence. He was a star tonight and he looked very, very confident back there, and it showed in our team play. When he's stopping the big plays, it adds something to our team."

Boughner, a defenseman playing on the fourth line, helped out with the win, converting a rebound into a goal early in the first period. Boughner, who has played just 22 games, hadn't scored since Jan. 28, 2003.

The Avalanche killed off 10 Predators power plays, including five in the third period. Left wing Alex Tanguay had a goal and an assist and Brett Clark scored his third goal of the season.

STANDINGS (through Jan. 4): Avalanche - 45 points, 4th place, 7 PB, Northwest Division. Wild - 42 points, 5th place, 10 PB, Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Avalanche - Marek Svatos, 20 goals; Tanguay, 31 assists and 45 points; Ian Laperriere, 63 PIM. Wild - Rolston, 18 goals, 23 assists and 41 points; Derek Boogaard, 68 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 4): Avalanche - Power play: 20 percent (50 for 250), 6th in NHL. Penalty killing: 85 percent (204 for 240), 5th. Wild - Power play: 18.6 percent (41 for 220), 11th. Penalty killing: 89 percent (194 for 218), 1st.

GOALTENDERS: Avalanche - Aebischer (12-9-0, 2 SO, 3.42 GAA); Peter Budaj (6-5-3, 0, 2.80). Wild - Roloson (5-12-1, 1, 2.71); Fernandez (14-5-3, 1, 2.05).


LAST MEETING: Dec. 23; Wild, 3-2. At Minneapolis, Marc Chouinard and Marian Gaborik each had a goal and an assist in the decisive third period to salvage a split of a home-and-home series. Pierre Turgeon had a pair of third-period assists for the Avalanche.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Avalanche - 10-11-0 on the road; Wild - 11-6-1 at home.

Associated Press
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