AVALANCHE (6-1-1) at WILD (1-6-0)
Season series -- This is the first of six meetings between these clubs. Last season, Minnesota won four of six contests -- twice at home and twice on the road. Pierre-Marc Bouchard (4 goals, 2 assists) and Mikko Koivu (1 goal, 5 assists) tied for the series scoring lead with 6 points apiece. Owen Nolan added 4 goals in five games, and goalie Niklas Backstrom went 4-1-1 with a 2.06 goals-against average. Since-traded Ryan Smyth paced the Avalanche with 3 goals and 4 points, and Paul Stastny added 2 goals and 2 assists in four games. Goalie Peter Budaj went 2-2-1 with a 2.53 GAA.
Big story -- These teams are at opposite ends of the Northwest Division standings. Colorado's worst-to-first transformation is one of the NHL's feel-good stories of the early season. Minnesota's only luck so far as been bad, with a crowded trainer's room full of injured players. The Wild are coming off an 0-for-5 road trip through California and Western Canada; the Avs swept four Original Six teams on the road last week.
Avalanche -- This is the final game of Colorado's seven-game road trip. They've gone 4-1-1 since hitting the road on Oct. 8 in Nashville.
On Monday, goaltender Craig Anderson was named the NHL's Second Star for the week ending Oct. 18 -- the second time he's earned the honor this month. From Oct. 12-18, Anderson went 4-0-0 with a 2.20 goals-against average and .928 save percentage as Colorado climbed into first place in the Northwest Division. Anderson began the week with a sweep of Northeast Division opponents, recording 29 saves in a 4-3 win against Boston, turning aside 30 of 31 shots in a 4-1 victory against Toronto, and making 29 saves in a 3-2 win against Montreal. He finished the week by stopping 28 shots and two of three shootout attempts in a 4-3 victory against Detroit. Anderson has started all eight games for the Avalanche this season, posting a 6-1-1 record with a 2.09 goals-against average, .935 save percentage and one shutout.
Wild -- Minnesota is playing its first home game since Oct. 6 and only its second of the season. It went 0-5-0 on a five-game road trip between games at XcelEnergyCenter, and three of those losses were by two or more goals.
This game will probably see the Minnesota debut of newly-acquired right wing Chuck Kobasew, who was acquired in a trade with Boston on Sunday. He had 1 assist and a minus-2 rating in seven games with the Bruins. The Wild were in desperate need of a veteran help with a crippling rash of injuries. Kobasew told the Pioneer Press "they have a good group of guys, good players, and there's no reason we can't turn it around."
"He's a proven NHL player," first-year GM Chuck Fletcher said. "He scored 20 goals in three of the last four seasons, and we think he'll bring some speed and competitiveness and some scoring depth to our roster.
"He's willing to get to the net and battle for pucks; he can score some of those goals around the net that are difficult to do."
Kobasew is glad for the change of scenery.
"It's a new opportunity for me," Kobasew said. "It's a beautiful building and great fans, so I'm looking forward to playing for them."
Who's hot -- For the Avalanche, right wing David Jones has 2 goals and 3 assists in his last four games. Left wing Cody McLeod has 2 goals and an assist in his last two games. Rookie center Ryan O'Reilly has a goal and 2 assists in his last two games. For the Wild, center Eric Belanger has 2 goals and 6 assists in his last six games. Left wing Andrew Brunette has 4 goals and 3 assists in his last six games.
Injury report -- The Wild have 14 total games missed due to injury. Right wingCal Clutterbuck is sidelined indefinitely with a sprained left ankle. Center Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion) and right wings Petr Sykora (groin) and Martin Havlat (groin) are day-to-day. For the Avalanche, defensemen Ruslan Salei (back) and Tom Preissing (knee) are on injured reserve, and defenseman John-Michael Liles is out two weeks with a shoulder injury.
Stat pack -- The Avalanche scored at least one power-play goal in each of their first six games, their best season-opening stretch since 1997-98 (nine straight). The streak was snapped in last Thursday's win at Montreal.
Puck drop -- Minnesota is 8-1-2 in the last 11 meetings against Colorado, and Wild Backstrom is 11-2-2 with a 2.06 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage in 16 career starts against the Avalanche. Will these advantages continue to hold up for Minnesota as they try to regroup with a banged-up roster?
-- Rocky Bonanno, NHL.com