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Wild and Avs start home-and-home in Minnesota

by Brian Hunter /

AVALANCHE (14-7-4) at WILD (8-12-3)

Last 10 - Avalanche 4-4-2; Wild 4-3-3

Season series - It's the second of six meetings this season and the opener of a home-and-home that sees the Wild travel back with the Avalanche to Colorado for a game Saturday night at the PepsiCenter. Minnesota prevailed 3-2 in a shootout on Oct. 21 at XcelEnergyCenter, with Mikko Koivu tying the game late in regulation with a power-play goal and winning it with the only successful attempt in the penalty-shot tiebreaker. Niklas Backstrom made 33 saves and stopped all three shootout tries by Colorado.

Big story - Each team comes off a Wednesday night loss in which it managed to gain one point. The Avalanche rallied from a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead, but ultimately lost 4-3 in overtime to the red-hot Nashville Predators, who won their seventh in a row. The Wild battled the Boston Bruins to a 1-1 deadlock through regulation and overtime before dropping a 2-1 decision in the shootout.

Team Scope:

Avalanche - Ryan Wilson, Milan Hejduk and Marek Svatos all scored in a span of less than 11 minutes in the second period for Colorado on Wednesday, but it wasn't enough to halt Nashville's recent surge. The Avalanche have lost three of four, but maintain a one-point lead over Calgary in the Northwest Division.

"We need to have a better start, but we got ourselves back into the game," coach Joe Sacco said.

Wild - Despite winning just one of its last six, Minnesota has earned at least one point in four of those games (1-2-3). However, if the Wild are to make up the ground they need in the Northwest and the Western Conference after losing six of seven to begin the season, they need to start picking up two points out of more efforts. Andrew Ebbett provided the offense Wednesday with a power-play goal in the second period.

"What we're talking about now is making sure we don't come out flat on Friday (against Colorado) and make sure we carry over all the good things we did tonight and keep making steps at becoming better," coach Todd Richards said.

Who's hot - Colorado forward David Jones has 4 goals and 6 points over his last four games. His 10 goals are just one behind Hejduk for the team lead. … Backstrom has played in hard luck much of this season for Minnesota, but he is 1-0-1 in his last two starts with a .933 save percentage.

Injury report - Avalanche captain Adam Foote (jaw) has missed the last four games, and fellow blueliner Kyle Cumiskey was out against the Predators with an injured foot. Forward Matt Hendricks (groin) is on injured reserve but could begin skating soon. Defenseman Ruslan Salei remains out with a back injury. … Just when it seemed the Wild were starting to get healthy, the injury bug started biting again. Forward Martin Havlat missed the Bruins game with a hamstring issue. Forwards Petr Sykora and Pierre-Marc Bouchard and defenseman Brent Burns all remain out with concussions.

Stat pack - One thing Ebbett might have been thankful for this holiday was his ability to find continued employment. It's not yet December and he's already played for three NHL teams this season, going scoreless in two games for Anaheim and scoring a goal in 10 games with Chicago before being acquired by Minnesota. He found the back of the net in his Wild debut Wednesday.

Puck prop - These rivals sit at opposite ends of the division, but each needs to establish some positive momentum moving forward. Fans should see some intense action over the next two days.

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