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Wild-Avalanche Preview @NHLdotcom

Minnesota's stingy defense has been looking a little more vulnerable lately.

The Wild look to bounce back from their first back-to-back losses of the season Sunday when they visit the Colorado Avalanche.

Minnesota (7-1-2) is among the best defensive teams in the league so far, allowing 1.90 goals per game. However, the Wild have given up 10 goals over their last two games, falling 5-3 at Calgary on Wednesday and 5-4 in a shootout on Thursday at Edmonton.

Before those two defeats, the Wild had allowed more than two goals only once. They have earned at least a point in all but one of their games this season.

Minnesota goaltender Josh Harding, who made his third start of the season Thursday, had surrendered just one goal coming in, but saw his goals-against average climb to 1.62.

Regular starter Niklas Backstrom is 5-1-1 with a 1.98 GAA this season and 4-0 with a 2.13 GAA in five lifetime starts versus the Avalanche, but he will not dress for this game due to a groin injury. The team did not say how the injury occurred, and the Wild have recalled Nolan Schaefer from Houston of the AHL for the game.

Schaefer went 5-1-0 with a 1.88 GAA in seven career games while with San Jose, which drafted him in the fifth round in 2000.

James Sheppard scored his first career NHL goal, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Brian Rolston and Mark Parrish also scored for the Wild, who have netted at least three goals in five straight games. Rolston leads the Wild with five goals and is tied with Bouchard for the team lead with 10 points.

Minnesota winger Pavol Demitra has missed both of the losses with a groin injury, and it's unclear when he will return. He has three goals and five assists in eight games.

Demitra hasn't played since last Sunday in the Wild's first meeting of the season with the Avalanche (6-4-0). Demitra had two assists in that game and Mikko Koivu, who has three goals and four assists this season, scored with 3:04 to play to lift Minnesota to a 3-2 home win.

The Wild have won four of their last five games against Colorado.

The Avalanche are coming off a 2-2 road trip, including Friday's 3-2 overtime win over Calgary. Goalie Jose Theodore turned away 39 shots after allowing eight goals in his first two starts.

"Well, we are very fortunate," said coach Joel Quenneville, who earned his 400th win. "It was one of those games where we were on our heels.

"It was a game we certainly didn't deserve to win but sometimes you get goaltending wins."

Peter Budaj has been in net in seven games this season for the Avalanche and is 4-2-0 with a 3.11 GAA.

Joe Sakic set up Ryan Smyth's game winner and also scored Friday, becoming the eighth NHL player to reach the 1,600-point plateau. Sakic is tied with Paul Stastny for the team lead with five points and ranks second with 11 points.

Andrew Brunette, second on the team with eight assists, assisted on Sakic's goal for his 500th career point.

"I think when I look back on my career it will be something that really sticks out in my mind," Brunette told Colorado's official team Web site. "But I was just happy that we came away with a victory tonight against a division opponent."

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