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Wild battle Avalanche for Northwest position

by Brian Hunter

AVALANCHE (4-6-1) at WILD (6-6-1)


Last 10: Colorado 4-5-1; Minnesota 4-5-1

Season series: Second of five meetings between these Northwest Division rivals. Dany Heatley struck for a pair of goals, including the game-winner, as Minnesota doubled up Colorado 4-2 on opening night at Xcel Energy Center.

Big story: The Avalanche have had a rough go on the road this season, winning just once in five tries, but they compounded those struggles by going 0-2-1 to conclude a four-game homestand. They scored only four goals over that span, and offense has been an issue. Colorado, which has been without captain Gabriel Landeskog since Jan. 26, sits in the bottom five of the NHL in scoring at just over two goals per game.

Team Scope:

Avalanche: In the continued absence of Landeskog, its sophomore sensation, Colorado must rely on increased contributions from another home-grown talent, Matt Duchene, and free-agent pickup PA Parenteau. Those two combined on the go-ahead goal early in the second period Monday to put the Avalanche up 2-1 on the Coyotes, but that lead slipped away in the third and the Avs fell 3-2 on a Shane Doan goal with 58.9 seconds left in overtime.

"We're close. We had some good chances," Duchene said. "The puck was bouncing bad on us in the last minute (of regulation) and then in overtime. We just have to find a way to get one there. I tried a one-timer and it jumped over my stick. It's disappointing. It's frustrating right now, losing a game like that. We probably deserved to win."

Wild: One of the feel-good stories in hockey this season hit a slight bump in the road when backup goalie Josh Harding was forced to miss his scheduled start Tuesday in Vancouver due to symptoms related to the medication he is taking to control multiple sclerosis. Niklas Backstrom had played Monday in Calgary and figures to get the start Thursday, but the Wild called up Darcy Kuemper to make his NHL debut against the red-hot Canucks. He turned aside 28 shots, but Devin Setoguchi's power-play goal wasn't enough support in a 2-1 defeat.

"You're not going to win a lot of games when you score one goal every game," center Kyle Brodziak told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "You hold a high-powered team like Vancouver to two goals, you've got to be expecting a better result than that."

Who's hot: Parenteau has four goals and two assists in his last five games for the Avalanche. Setoguchi has two goals and an assist in his last three games for the Wild. Backstrom has allowed just one goal in each of his last two starts.

Injury report: Colorado forward John Mitchell (flu-like symptoms) and defensemen Matt Hunwick (upper body) and Erik Johnson (upper body) are day-to-day. Landeskog (head/neck) and defenseman Ryan Wilson (leg) are on injured reserve along with forward Steve Downie (knee), who is out for the season. … Harding's status for Minnesota will be determined on a day-to-day basis.

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