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Minnesota Wild vs. Colorado Avalanche series storylines

NHL.com @NHL

History:  The Avalanche and Wild have met only once in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Wild, making their first NHL playoff appearance in 2003, rallied from a 3-1series deficit to defeat the Avalanche in the seventh game of the Conference Quarter-final -- Colorado's Andrew Brunette, then with Minnesota, scored at 3:25 of overtime of Game 7 to give Minnesota the victory on April 22, 2003.

Golden Gopher returns: Colorado D Jordan Leopold, a Golden Valley, capped his four year career with the University of Minnesota with a 4-3 victory over the Maine Black Bears at the Xcel Energy Center for the 2002 NCAA title -- Leopold, the 2002 Hobey Baker Memorial Award winner, helped set up the winning goal in overtime giving Minnesota its first NCAA win since 1979.

Rolston
Familiar foes:  Minnesota's Brian Rolston (1999-2000), Chris Simon (1995-96) and Martin Skoula (1999-2002) all played for the Colorado Avalanche and Mark Parrish (79th overall in 1996), and Branko Radivojevic (93rd overall in 1999) were Avalanche draft choices. Martin Skoula, also a Colorado draft pick (17th overall in 1998) and Chris Simon helped lead the Avalanche to Stanley Cup victories -- Simon won with Colorado in 1996 and Skoula in 2001.

Balanced scoring: Both teams had nine players score at least 10 goals in 2007-08, with Colorado posting 224 goals and Minnesota 220 goals.  Their defenses are also equally balanced, with Minnesota giving up only 218 goals against and Colorado 219.

Road woes: The Avalanche went 3-4-1 against the Wild this season, but finished 0-3-1 in Minnesota -- both teams have struggled on the road with only 43 of Minnesota's 98 points and 39 of Colorado's 95 points coming on the road in 2007-08.        
      
MINNESOTA WILD

NHL Playoff Appearance: 3rd (2nd consecutive)
Stanley Cups: 0
Last Playoff Series Win: 2003 (Conference Semi-final vs. Vancouver)
All-Time Playoff Series Record: 2-2
All-Time Playoff Game Record: 9-14

KEY DATES

Dec. 17/07 -- Jacques Lemaire coaches his 1,000th career NHL regular-season game.
Dec. 20/07 -- RW Marian Gaborik scores five goals and adds an assist in victory over the Rangers.

March 1/08 -- Gaborik is named captain.

April 3/08 -- The Wild defeats Calgary to win the Northwest Division title, the first in team history, and gives Jacques Lemaire his 500th career regular-season victory as an NHL head coach.

WILD STORY LINES

'Monnesota' Wild?: GM Doug Risebrough played on four Cup-winners with Montreal, Coach Jacques Lemaire played on eight Cup-winners with Montreal and Assistant Coach Mario Tremblay played on five with Montreal -- four of them as a teammate of Lemaire and Risebrough. . . Of the 1,090 players who have skated for Stanley Cup champion teams since 1893, only four players (all of whom played for the Canadiens) have played on more champs than Lemaire: Claude Provost (9), Jean Beliveau and Yvan Cournoyer (10) and Henri Richard(11) . . . Lemaire scored the Stanley Cup-winning goals in 1977 (against Boston) and 1979 (against the Rangers). The Cup-winning goal scorer in the 1978 Final against the Bruins? Tremblay . . . Lemaire also is the only person to play in 800 NHL games and coach in 1,000.

Not To Be Overlooked: Minnesota's other assistant coach, Mike Ramsey, played on the USA team that shocked the hockey world by winning the gold medal at the 1980 Olympics after playing for the 1979 NCAA champion University of Minnesota.

Backstrom
Don't Scratch My Backstrom: Wild G Niklas Backstrom won a franchise-record 33 games this season, going 7-0-4 in his last 11 decisions with a 1.61 goals-against average and a .944 save percentage . . . Over the past two seasons, Backstrom has lost only twice in regulation in the months of March and April. He is a combined 18-2-6 with a 1.60 GAA and a .970 save percentage from March 1 forward.

Marian Gaborik finished with 42 goals, a team record, plus 83 points (another team record) and tied his own team record with eight game-winners. Brian Rolston also had 8.

Best of 15?: Brian Rolston, prior to the regular-season finale, said "I think we’ve completely been in playoff mode these last eight or nine games." Rolston has scored 30-or-more goals in each of the past three seasons.

Best of 29?:  G Niklas Backstrom said, "It’s been like playoffs for a month or two."

Center of Attraction: Minnesota went 25-11-5 at Xcel Energy Center in 2007-08 after going 29-7-5 in the previous season. The Wild's all-time home record is 149-88-49.

Looks Familiar: Avalanche defensemen Jordan Leopold (Golden Valley) and Kurt Sauer (St. Cloud) are Minnesota natives . . . Colorado LW Andrew Brunette spent three seasons with the Wild (2001-04).

Tough Tickets: In its seventh NHL season, the Wild has sold out all 318 home games played in club history, including 287 regular season games, 21 preseason contests and 10 playoff games.

Burns
Burning Up: D Brent Burns (all 6-5, 219 of him) established franchise records for goals and points by a defenseman with 15 and 43, respectively . . .  Burns' mother, Gaby, went into labor with him while she was at a rink watching her husband, Rob, play in a recreational league game in March 1985 . . . According to Larry Wigge of NHL.com, Burns loves to read, has five tattoos, three guitars, two racing bikes, two huskies, two cats, two talking birds and a large sampling of fish -- including a shark.

Lemaire Fiddles, Burns Roams: The Wild drafted Burns expecting he would play forward. Burns had played defense, then right wing, in junior. Wild coach Jacques Lemaire experimented with Burns up front in 2005-06.        
 
COLORADO AVALANCHE

NHL Playoff Appearance: 20th (1st since 2006)
Stanley Cups: 2 (2001, 1996)
Last Playoff Series Win: 2006 (Conference Quarterfinal vs. Dallas)
All-Time Playoff Series Record: 24-17
All-Time Playoff Game Record: 126-107

KEY DATES        

What a week -- The seven-day period from February 24 through March 1 was a defining one for the Avalanche this season. After a 3-2 loss to the Oilers on Feb. 24, they sat in10th place in the West – in the midst of a streak that had seen them win just one of seven games - and were four points behind 8th place Nashville.  

Feb. 24/08 -- C Joe Sakic returned to the lineup after missing 38 games due to hernia surgery (Dec. 28). It was the most games he has missed in his career in a single season.

Feb. 25/08 -- C Peter Forsberg was signed for the remainder of the 2007-08 season and would make his debut on March 4 vs. Vancouver.

Foote
Feb. 26/08 -- D Adam Foote was acquired from Columbus on trade deadline (for a conditional first-round draft choice in 2008 or 2009 and a conditional fourth-round choice in 2009).  After hopping a ride with a police officer from the airport to the Pengrowth Saddledome, he made his way on to the bench with 6:26 left in the first period and went on to play 29 shifts (18:30 of ice time) in the Avs 3-2 win.

Feb. 26/08 – Another trade deadline deal saw D Ruslan Salei acquired from Florida (for  Karlis Skrastins and a third-round draft choice in the 2008 Entry Draft).

Feb. 27/08 – D Brett Clark underwent season-ending shoulder surgery.

Mar. 1/08 – RW Marek Svatos suffered a torn ACL vs. Los Angeles and is out for the remainder of the season. He was leading the team with 26 goals at the time of his injury.

AVALANCHE STORYLINES

Sakic & Forsberg among playoff leaders:  Sakic and Forsberg both rank in the top-10 in playoff career points-per-game average (among players with 100 points).  Wayne Gretzky leads at 1.84, followed by Mario Lemieux (1.61), Mark Messier (1.25), Mike Bossy (1.24), Jari Kurri (1.16), Forsberg (1.15), Gilbert Perreault (1.14), Peter Stastny (1.13), Bernie Federko (1.11) and Sakic (1.09).

Sakic also on goal list:  Sakic also sits 10th in average goals-per-game in the playoffs.  Mario Lemieux ranks first (.710), followed by Mike Bossy (.659), Maurice Richard (.617), Cam Neely (.613), Wayne Gretzky (.587), Jari Kurri (.530), Bobby Hull (.521), Dino Ciccarelli (.518), Brett Hull (.516) and Sakic (.506).  

Mr. Playoffs:  Joe Sakic enters the 2008 playoffs in 11th place all-time in points with 178 (82-96-178) – two behind Raymond Bourque (180) and six behind Bryan Trottier (184).  He is tied for 7th all-time in playoff goals with Maurice Richard (82) and is within three of catching 6th place Mike Bossy (85).  He is also tied with Maurice Richard for 4th all-time in game-winning goals in the playoffs (18) and is one shy of 3rd place Claude Lemieux (19).  Finally, Sakic looks to extend his career playoff overtime goals record (7).

Stastny
Playoff time for Stastny again in Denver: As Paul Stastny prepares for his first Stanley Cup playoff game, exactly three years ago (April 9, 2005) he notched a pair of goals for the University of Denver to lead them to their second consecutive NCAA with a 4-1 victory over North Dakota. Stastny is the first Avalanche player to score 20 goals in each of his first two NHL seasons since Chris Drury in 1998-99 and 1999-2000, despite missing 15 games after having his appendix removed on Jan. 17.

Theodore’s bounce back season:  After a 13-15-1 record in 2006-07, including only three starts in the final six weeks of the season, G Jose Theodore rebounded to post a 28-21-3 record in 2007-08.  He has allowed two goals or less in 22 of his last 36 appearances, including one goal or less on 11 occasions and three shutouts; his 2.23 average since Jan. 1st is tied for third among NHL goaltenders.  Arthroscopic knee surgery on Aug. 29, followed a brief stint in the minors made Theodore eager to regain his Vezina and Hart Trophy form of 2001-02:  "If I play the best I can and I'm happy with the way I'm playing, then everything will fall into place," he said early this season. "I think every year you approach it the same way, but obviously when it's the last year of the contract, I think as a player everybody puts that extra pressure on yourself, which is a fun and good pressure."

The three amigos:  Foote, Forsberg and Sakic remain from the Avalanche teams that won Stanley Cups in both 1996 and 2001 (Milan Hejduk and Scott Parker remain from 2001-winning team). Their reunion on Mar. 4 vs. Vancouver marked the first time they had played together since a playoff game vs. San Jose on May 4/04 and the threesome combined
Sakic
to log more than 63 minutes of ice time.  Sakic on the reunion:  "It's just great to have Adam back. You start almost the same time in your career, you're together so long. He left and he came back, and now it's like you have your buddy back from when you started, and it's almost like you're going back to the start with him. Same with Peter. It's one of those things that on the ice, off the ice, everything's kind of back where it should be."
Forsberg on his return to Colorado: "It feels like it was yesterday when I left here. Just being back here … and these guys are still flying around, and they're a couple of years older than I am, but they look great out there. It seems like they haven't missed a beat. It's great to be back with these guys. We had such a good long run."

Avs consistency:  The Avalanche have reached 40 wins for the ninth consecutive season and 11th time in 12 seasons since moving to Denver (only failed to reach the 40-win mark in 1997-98, when they won the Pacific Division title with 39 wins).  They are one of only three teams to produce 11 different 40-win campaigns since 1995-96 (Detroit and New Jersey).

The Comeback kids: The Avalanche rallied to win seven games this season when trailing after two periods.  Only the New Jersey Devils (8) had more comeback wins when trailing after two periods this season.

The ironman: LW Andrew Brunette has played in 452 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the league.  He is one of only two Avalanche players to skate in all 82 games this season (Scott Hannan).


 

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