AVALANCHE (33-29-4) at WILD (28-27-10)
TV: ALTITUDE (HD), FS-North (HD), FS-Wisconsin (HD)
Colorado 5-4-1; Minnesota 3-5-2
Season Series: This is the fifth of six meetings; Minnesota has won three of the first four. The Wild won the last two, both in Denver - by a single goal. The teams meet again at the Pepsi Center on Tuesday.
Big Story: Time is starting to run out on the injury-riddled Wild, who look nothing like the team that was on top of the NHL standings in early December. They've dropped three in a row. The Avs come to St. Paul in a slump of their own after back-to-back home losses.
Avalanche: Colorado got back into the playoff race in the West by winning five of six, but three days and two losses later, the Avs are three points and two places out of the playoffs. It started with a 2-0 home loss to lowly Columbus on Thursday, and things got worse on Saturday against Pittsburgh. The Pens beat up on the Avs, winning 5-1, and Colorado didn't score until midway through the third period. Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 23 saves and Matt Hunwick scored the lone goal.
"It was just a few minor mistakes," Hunwick said. "They were able to capitalize. We weren't able to get much going through the first two periods. Our power play didn't generate as
much as we wanted it to."
Wild: Minnesota threatened a late postseason run with a few key wins late in February, but three straight losses - including a pair of lopsided shutout defeats -- have all but put those hopes to bed. On Friday, Detroit beat Minnesota 6-0. Valtteri Filppula scored within 35 seconds and the Wings never looked back, scoring at least a goal in each period and outshooting the Wild 35-19. Starting goalie Josh Harding conceded all six goals on 29 shots before he was pulled after 45:30.
"We gave them the first two goals and then put ourselves in a real tough spot," coach Mike Yeo said. "We didn't respond well after that, and they felt pretty good about the way things were going. That's too good of a team to let them feel that way. We were chasing all game and we didn't have the legs, but with that said we lost our heads. We didn't play well."
Who's Hot: Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog is making a push for the Calder Trophy, with five goals and six assists over his last eight games. The NHL's Rookie of the Month for February had another assist on Hunwick's goal against Pittsburgh, and recorded an impressive eight shots.
Injury Report: Colorado's Chuck Kobasew missed Saturday's game against Pittsburgh with a back injury, while Ryan O'Byrne (knee) will miss 2-3 weeks. … Minnesota is riddled with injuries in key areas. Nike Palmieri and Cal Clutterbuck are questionable for Sunday's game with upper-body injuries. Starting goaltender Niklas Backstrom will miss at least 2-4 weeks with a lower-body injury. Mikko Koivu (shoulder), Clayton Stoner (lower body), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion/groin), Jarod Palmer (upper body) and Guillaume Latendresse (post-concussion syndrome) are all on injured reserve.
Stat Pack: The 6-0 loss in Detroit was Minnesota's most lopsided of the season, and an anemic offense has contributed to the Wild's recent decline. They could turn it around against Colorado, whose usually stingy defense has allowed 21 goals over the last five games.
Puck Drop: After the loss to the Wings, Hunwick told reporters how critical the two-game series against the Wild will be for Colorado's season.
"This is the time of the year when you need to string wins together. To lose two in a row at home is unacceptable. We have a chance tomorrow to play Minnesota, a team that is right next to us in the standings. This is a mini playoff series for us. We need to go out and get as many points as we can in the next two games."