The Minnesota Wild and Colorado Avalanche are both coming off their worst losses of the season, but it appears the Wild's defeat was more costly.
Minnesota hopes to move on from a disappointing road trip and an injury to one of its best players when it opens a three-game homestand against the Avalanche on Sunday.
The Wild (10-7-2) fell to Vancouver 6-2 on Friday, losing for the third time in four games on a road trip against the other Northwest Division teams. They are in second place in the Northwest, one point back of division-leading Colorado.
Since starting the season 7-0-1, Minnesota has lost eight of 11, and things got even worse in Friday's defeat.
Center Mikko Koivu, second on the Wild with 16 points, was violently slashed in the back of the left leg with 3:54 left in the game and had to be helped off the ice.
"He could have broken his leg," Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said.
The seriousness of the injury was not announced, but the loss of Koivu would be a big blow for the Wild, who are already without left wing Pavol Demitra because of a groin injury.
On Friday, goaltender Josh Harding allowed three goals on 11 shots in just under 12 minutes before being replaced by Niklas Backstrom, who had been pulled after two periods in Thursday's 4-2 win at Edmonton.
Backstrom yielded three goals on 20 shots Friday, and should be excited about returning home. Backstrom has won all six of his starts at the Xcel Energy Center, posting a 1.17 goals-against average and two shutouts. He is 1-1-0 with a 2.51 GAA versus the Avalanche this season, and is 4-1-1 with a 2.28 GAA against them in his career.
The Wild have won their last two home games by a combined 9-3 score, and are 6-2-0 at the Xcel Energy Center this season.
Minnesota beat the Avalanche 3-2 at home on Oct. 21, but has lost the last two meetings - both on the road. Colorado beat the Wild 4-2 last Sunday behind two goals from Paul Stastny and 25 saves from Peter Budaj.
Avalanche left wing Wojtek Wolski had a goal and an assist last Sunday, and has five points in his last four games against Minnesota.
Colorado (11-6-1) opened a four-game road trip with a 6-1 loss to Dallas on Friday.
The Avalanche, who entered Friday's game on a 7-1-1 run, had a season-low 18 shots and allowed a season high in goals.
"We've got to play better and smarter and harder," said Avs left wing Ryan Smyth, who has two goals and two assists in his last two games against the Wild.
Jose Theodore was pulled in the second period after giving up five goals on 10 shots. He was 3-0-1 with a 1.96 GAA in his previous four starts.
Budaj replaced Theodore and stopped 10 of 11 shots. Budaj is 4-1-0 with a 2.35 GAA in his last five games, and has been in net for all three games against Minnesota, going 2-1-0 with a 2.01 GAA.
Colorado has not lost consecutive games since Oct. 19 and 21.