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Wild, Avs set to conclude home-and-home series

by Deborah Francisco
WILD (28-28-10) AT AVALANCHE (34-29-4)


Last 10: Minnesota 3-5-2; Colorado 6-4-0.

Season Series: Colorado is looking to even up the six-game season series in this final meeting in Denver. Minnesota currently leads the season series 3-2, but Colorado won the first game of a home-and-home series with a 2-0 shutout on Sunday night. 

Big Story: The Avs are clawing desperately for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference and trail by just one point going into Tuesday night’s action. However, the Western Conference is such a logjam that anything could happen at this point, so the Wild have much to play for – not to mention getting the upper hand in the season series with Colorado.

Team Scope:

Wild: Minnesota is hoping to snap a four-game winless streak on Tuesday. Minnesota has struggled to get the puck in the back of the net lately, being shutout in four of its last five outings, a trend which hasn't been helped by the high number of injuries the Minnesota squad has been dealt recently.

Minnesota is without its captain Mikko Koivu who is sidelined with a shoulder injury, while forwards Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Guillaume Latendresse are both suffering from concussions.

The Wild have notched just four goals in an 0-3-1 span, allowing at least two goals in the first period of each game in that stretch. However, the Wild are less worried about injuries than they are with their general effort lately.

"We've used that excuse already -- injuries, injuries, injuries," right winger Devin Setoguchi said. "If the effort's there then we can be satisfied if we lose the game or if we play hard, but if the effort's not there and the mentality isn't there to play the game right -- even with all the injuries -- then that's not an excuse, win or lose."

Avalanche: After dropping two straight contests, Colorado got back on track with Sunday's road win against the Wild. Recently acquired forward Jamie McGinn shouldered the scoring burden for his burgundy and blue comrades, notching the only two goals of the game. It was McGinn's first career two-goal game.

"This is huge. After dropping two we knew we needed these two points," said McGinn. "Everyone ahead of us is winning right now, so we have to stay in the hunt. It's going to be an interesting final stretch here, and we want to be a part of it too."

Semyon Varlamov made 30 saves to earn his fourth shutout of this season, his second against the Wild. However, Colorado has gone 1-6-1 over its last eight home matchups with Minnesota.

"(Varlamov's) been very solid for us lately here, and we're going to need that type of play down the stretch," coach Joe Sacco said.

Who's Hot: Matt Kassian notched a pair of goals for Minnesota on Thursday, the last game the Wild scored against their opponent … Peter Mueller and Stefan Elliott each notched a pair of assists in their last outing.

Injury Report: Minnesota is without goalie Niklas Backstrom (strained groin) out for at least another two weeks, and is also without Koivu (shoulder) Bouchard (concussion), Latendresse (concussion) and Mike Lundin (lower body)… Colorado's Chuck Kobasew is out with a back injury, Ryan O'Byrne (knee) will miss 2-3 weeks, and Steve Downie is questionable for Tuesday and missed last game because of a shoulder injury.

Stat Pack: Minnesota has been shut out in back-to-back games and three of its last four games. The last team to get shut out in three straight was Montreal last March 22-26.

Puck Drop: "I have to find a way to make sure we're ready to go at the drop of the puck the next game," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. " I think it's more between the ears than it is the ability of a player."

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