AVALANCHE (22-16-6) AT WILD (21-17-5)
TV - ALTITUDE (HD), KSTC (HD)
Last 10 -- Colorado 3-5-2; Minnesota 5-4-1
Season series - This is the third meeting of six between the two Northwest Division rivals. They split the first two, with Colorado beating Minnesota 7-4 on Nov. 27 and Minnesota beating Colorado 3-1 on Dec. 23. Minnesota is 15-5-2 against Colorado since the start of the 2007-08 season.
Big story -- With only five points separating fourth place and 11th place in the Western Conference, and only three points separating Colorado from Minnesota in the Northwest Division, the two points in Friday night's game will be particularly valuable.
Avalanche - After a morale-boosting a 5-4 victory against the Detroit Red Wings at home on Monday, the Avs started a quick two-game trip by getting beaten soundly, 4-0 by the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night.
It was a tough loss for the Avalanche to swallow and according to sophomore Matt Duchene the Avalanche needs to find itself before taking on the Wild on Friday.
"It's a tough one tonight," Duchene told the Denver Post. "(Chicago) did a good job. They played their game to a 't' and we just weren't quite there tonight. We're looking for a better effort on Friday (at Minnesota). Tonight wasn't how we drew it up whatsoever. We're trying to find ourselves a little bit right now, but we'll do it."
Perhaps the return of power forward Chris Stewart to the lineup will be just the boost Colorado is looking for. Stewart missed the last eight contests with a fractured hand he sustained on Nov. 27 but is expected to crack the roster on Friday night in the Twin Cities.
Wild - Minnesota is coming off a 5-1 loss to the Nashville Predators in a game where nothing seemed to go the Wild's way. Minnesota was also shut out 4-0 at home by the Dallas Stars. However, these losses come on the heels of a four-game win streak that started on Jan. 2.
Ultimately, Tuesday's loss came down to goaltending for the Wild, who gave up two early goals to the Predators and couldn't recover.
"Those were the ones he was gobbling up," coach Todd Richards said of goalie Jose Theodore. "We went all last week, and he had about 100 of those that either hit him, or he caught it and the play was done."
It was the Wild's first loss on the road in regulation since a 6-2 loss on Dec. 12 at Anaheim.
Who's hot - Mikko Koivu boasts a team-best 11 goals on the season and notched Minnesota's lone goal in Tuesday night's loss… Duchene notched two goals and an assist on Monday night against the Red Wings.
Injury report - Colorado expects to have Stewart back in the lineup, but defenseman Kyle Cumiskey is still out with a head injury. … Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom (back) is day to day, and Theodore did not practice Thursday due to a groin injury. That may give the start to Russian rookie Anton Khudobin.. Forward Guillaume Latendresse (sports hernia) and defenseman Marek Zidlicky (shoulder) are on injured reserve.
Stat pack - The Wild are 0 for 10 on the power play in the last three games, but have killed off all 19 opposition power plays in the last seven games. … Colorado has averaged just 2.0 goals while going 3-6-2 in its last 11 games. The Avs are 1-for-28 on the power play in their last eight games.
Puck drop - The Avs need one of their goaltenders to step up. Craig Anderson is 1-5-1 with a 3.27 goals-against average in his last seven starts, though the Avalanche have scored just 11 times in those games. Peter Budaj has surrendered four goals in three of his last four starts, including the win against Detroit.