WILD (15-13-4) at AVALANCHE (19-11-4)
TV -- FS-N (HD), ALT (HD)
Last 10 --
Minnesota 4-4-2; Colorado 6-2-2
Season series --
This is the second of six meetings between the Northwest Division rivals this season. Colorado took the first game with a 7-4 victory in Denver on Nov. 27. Greg Mauldin
had a career night with 2 goals and 2 assists for his first (and only) multi-point game in his brief NHL career.
Big Story --
Colorado is looking to start a new winning streak Thursday after having its six-game streak snapped Tuesday in a 5-0 loss to the Kings. Minnesota, meanwhile, is looking to keep a good thing going. The Wild have won two in a row and four of their last six since snapping a five-game winless streak that began, coincidentally, against the Avalanche at Pepsi Center.
Wild -- Niklas Backstrom
has caught fire lately and the Wild are hoping to ride their world-class goalie for a while. Backstrom allowed only two goals in recent back-to-back wins against the Flames. He made a combined 62 saves to run his record to 11-8-3, drop his goals-against average to 2.59 and raise his save percentage to .919. Backstrom particularly was strong in the team's 4-1 win Monday. He made 34 saves, including 12 in the second period when Minnesota was outshot 13-3. This is exactly the type of goaltending the Wild need from Backstrom, especially against divisional opponents.
"(Backstrom) was the difference in the game," Wild coach Todd Richards told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "Especially in the second period, when we, again, had a meltdown as far as how we want to play the game, he gave us a chance to win the game."
All good things have to come to an end, so it really comes as no surprise that the Avalanche lost Tuesday's game. If they come back with a strong effort Thursday the Avs will be able to toss Tuesday's 5-0 loss to the Kings aside pretty easily, chalk it up to a bad night and move on. But if they have another off night, then there might be something to talk about here. Good teams show resiliency and find their way back after a brutal night, which is precisely what the Avs had Tuesday. They're a good team, and this is another chance to show it.
"It's tough to end this good streak on this note," Avs center Matt Duchene
said according to the Denver Post. "It's obviously a pretty poor game. We didn't get the bounces, either, and you don't get those bounces when you don't work hard enough."
Who's Hot --
Wild forward Martin Havlat leads the team with 30 points, including 21 in his last 18 games. He has 7 goals and 14 assists over the span. He had the game-winning goal plus an assist in Monday's win against Calgary.
Injury Report --
Wild defenseman Nick Schultz
is out until at least after Christmas, according to the Star-Tribune. He was hit in the head Saturday in Calgary, but the Wild are not calling it a concussion. … For the Avs, Peter Mueller
(concussion), Chris Stewart (hand), Kyle Quincey
(shoulder) and Kyle Cumiskey
(concussion) remain on injured reserve. Milan Hejduk
and Cody McLeod
sat out Tuesday game with groin injuries, and David Van Der Gulik
missed the game with a knee injury.
Stat Pack --
The last time the Wild won three in a row was Nov. 2-6. Their sweep of the Flames was the first time they won back-to-back games by multiple goals since Oct. 19-21. … Colorado was shut out Tuesday for the first time all season, and the first time in the regular season since Feb. 13 of last season -- a span of 55 games. Ironically, the Kings were on the other side each time. The Avalanche had scored at least three goals in their eight games prior to Tuesday.
Puck Drop --
Minnesota coach Todd Richards gave some interesting reasoning to the Star-Tribune as to why the line of Havlat, Kyle Brodziak
and Pierre-Marc Bouchard
is working so well for the Wild. It all comes back to them being different players who are finding a way to work together.
"When you're looking at lines and combinations, you can't have all the same guy," Richards said. "You can't have all three skill players or all three would want the puck. Brodzie, to me, is a straight-line player. Butch and Marty are east-west players. They pull up, they delay, they're looking for each other."