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Wild come hold to host Avalanche

by Corey Masisak /

AVALANCHE (27-12-5) at WILD (24-17-5)


Last 10: Colorado 4-2-4; Minnesota 4-6-0

Season series: The Colorado Avalanche have won two of the three games this season, though the Minnesota Wild prevailed in the most recent matchup, 3-2 in a shootout on Dec, 14.

Big story: The Wild will try to set a season high with five straight victories while the Avalanche are beginning a stretch in which they'll play six of eight games away from Pepsi Center.

Team Scope:

Avalanche: While Tomas Hertl, Alex Chiasson and Sean Monahan had great starts to their 2013-14 season and Valeri Nichushkin and Chris Kreider have come on of late, Nathan MacKinnon has been the most consistent rookie forward in the NHL this season. He scored a highlight-reel goal Friday night in a 2-1 overtime loss to the New York Islanders for his 15th goal of the season.

MacKinnon is tied with Hertl for the most goals among rookies and has four more points Hertl and Kreider. He's had seven points, nine points and eight points in his first three months in the NHL and has five in five January contests.

The overtime loss gave the Avalanche a 4-1-2 record on their season-long seven-game homestand that left coach Patrick Roy pleased despite the disappointing ending.

"I thought our guys played well on this homestand," Roy said. "It was a dangerous one. You wanted to pick up as many points as possible and I think 10 out of 14 is pretty good.

Wild: Minnesota lost six straight games near the end of December, and it left the Wild in 10th place in the Western Conference. Even worse, surprise star Josh Harding has been unavailable in January because of illness, Zach Parise is out with a foot injury and captain Mikko Koivu was lost to a broken ankle.

Still, the Wild have won four straight, including victories at Los Angeles and Phoenix, and Minnesota has moved back into the top eight in the West, two points ahead of the Coyotes for the second wild car spot. Goaltender Niklas Backstrom, who fell behind Harding on the team's depth chart, has won each of his past three starts and yielded only five goals in that span. Backstrom went 0-6-0 with 24 goals allowed in six December starts.

The winning streak has made coach Mike Yeo's life a lot calmer.

"It wasn't fun. It wasn't fun," Yeo said in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune of the stress he was particularly under. "But honestly, you tell me, I think I handled it well. I just focused on the next day. I had total confidence in our guys. I didn't have a shadow of a doubt that our guys were going to go out and compete hard. That's all you can do is focus on what you can control."

Who's hot: MacKinnon has seven goals in his past seven games for the Avalanche. … Nino Niederreiter has two goals and five points during a four-game point streak for Minnesota.

Injury report: Forward Alex Tanguay has been out since early November, but he practiced in a non-contact role Thursday for the Avalanche. Forward PA Parenteau (knee) is out, while forward Ryan O'Reilly (shoulder) and defenseman Nate Guenin (ankle) missed the game Friday night. … Koivu (ankle), Harding (illness), Parise (foot) and defenseman Jared Spurgeon (lower body) are all out for the Wild.

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