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Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild @NHLdotcom
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GAME: Colorado Avalanche (32-14-10-4) at Minnesota Wild (21-22-16-2).

TIME: Sunday, 7 p.m. EST.

While playing the Colorado Avalanche is never easy, the Minnesota Wild may be catching them at the perfect time.

Colorado tries to put the brakes on a season-high three-game losing streak when it faces the Wild at the Xcel Energy Center.

Attempting to erase the memory of a 5-1 home loss to Edmonton on Wednesday, the Avalanche had their second straight poor performance Friday in another 5-1 defeat at Dallas.

Colorado, outscored 11-2 during its three-game skid, fell two points behind Detroit for first place in the Western Conference. The Avs haven't lost four in a row since Nov. 4-10, 2002.

"Everybody goes through tough times," right wing Teemu Selanne said. "We've got some big guys hurt right now but that's no excuse. We've got to find a way to win games. We've got too much pride to lose games."

Already missing top defenseman Rob Blake, the Avalanche were without star center Peter Forsberg and defenseman Adam Foote on Friday.

Forsberg, the NHL leader with 1.5 points per game, is bothered by a recurring groin injury and is day-to-day.

"With the time and point we are in our season, rather than making him go out there and play with that, we want to rest him and get him back to 100 percent," Colorado coach Tony Granato said.

Foote was scratched Friday with a groin injury, but should be back in the lineup Sunday.

With Blake sidelined indefinitely, the Avalanche have acquired a pair of defensemen in the last two days. They picked up Bob Boughner from Carolina on Friday for a third-round draft pick and the rights to prospect Chris Bahen, and sent defenseman Martin Skoula to Anaheim on Saturday for Kurt Sauer and a fourth-round draft choice in 2005.

"We are excited to add a defenseman of Kurt's size and ability to our roster," Avalanche president and general manager Pierre Lacroix said. "We expect him to be a strong contributor on our blue line for many years to come."

Minnesota, trying to move closer to a playoff spot, is coming off one of its best performances of the season in a 6-2 victory over Vancouver on Thursday.

Marc Chouinard scored twice and three other players added a goal and an assist for the Wild, 4-2-1 in their last seven.

"It was probably the most intense game this hockey team has played," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. "I think Vancouver is the only team that brings this out in us. For some reason, we just get up to play them, and it's always a physical game."

If Minnesota is to earn a playoff berth, it will need star right wing Marian Gaborik to stay hot. Mired in an offensive funk most of this season, Gaborik has come alive with four goals and five points in his last two games.

"Now you can see that he wants the puck more," Lemaire said.

Wild center Sergei Zholtok is also contributing offensively, with seven goals and two assists in his last eight games.

STANDINGS (through Feb. 20): Avalanche - 78 points, 1st place, Northwest Division. Wild - 60 points, 4th place, 18 PB, Northwest Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Avalanche - Milan Hejduk, 26 goals; Alex Tanguay, 46 assists and 67 points; Jim Cummins, 131 PIM. Wild - Zholtok, 13 goals; Andrew Brunette, 25 assists and 36 points; Matt Johnson, 156 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Feb. 20): Avalanche - Power play: 22.4 percent (58 for 259), 2nd in NHL. Penalty killing: 85.2 percent (224 for 263), 8th. Wild - Power play: 14.1 percent (34 for 241), 26th. Penalty killing: 84.7 percent (188 for 222), 16th.

GOALTENDERS: Avalanche - David Aebischer (25-13-7, 4 SO, 2.08 GAA); Philippe Sauve (7-5-3, 2.64). Wild - Dwayne Roloson (15-15-8, 4, 1.93); Manny Fernandez (6-9-8, 1, 2.44).

SEASON SERIES: Avalanche, 2-1-1.

LAST MEETING: Jan. 4; Avalanche, 3-1. At Denver, Sauve made 25 saves and Selanne and Hejduk scored power-play goals in the second period for Colorado.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Avalanche - 16-4-7-3 on the road; Wild - 13-12-6-1 at home.

Associated Press
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