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Wild try again to clinch playoff berth

by Kevin Woodley /

WILD (25-19-3) at AVALANCHE (16-24-7)


Last 10: Minnesota 4-5-1; Colorado 4-4-2

Season series: The Minnesota Wild can take comfort in a 3-0-1 edge against the Colorado Avalanche this season, starting with the first three meetings in St. Paul -- a 4-2 season-opening win on Jan. 19, a 4-3 shootout loss on Feb. 14, and 5-3 win on March 14. The Wild also won their only other visit to Denver, beating the Avalanche 6-4 at the Pepsi Center on March 16.

Big story: After tripping over a chance to clinch a playoff spot with a 6-1 home loss against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night, the Wild travel to Denver for another chance to extend their season. Minnesota, which lost eight of its first 11 games in April, can secure a postseason berth by either beating the Avalanche, or getting some help with a Columbus Blue Jackets loss to the Nashville Predators. A combination of one point for Minnesota and only one for Columbus would also give the Wild the final playoff spot because they have the tiebreaker over the Blue Jackets.

Team Scope:

Wild: In a free fall since leading the Northwest Division in early April, the Wild couldn't build off a hard-fought 2-1 win over the Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. They were demolished by an Edmonton team that had lost 19 of its 20 previous trips to the Xcel Energy Center. Now they have just 24 hours to regroup.

"It's easy to get derailed by a game like that," forward Kyle Brodziak said after the loss to the Oilers "It's tough to explain … I don't think anyone really knows what happened. … You just forget about this. Tomorrow is a new day and we're fighting for our lives now. We gotta lay it all on the line and play as desperate as we possibly can."

It would be easy to ask why they didn't do just that against the Oilers, but there's not much time to answer those questions. Coach Mike Yeo didn't waste any time announcing Niklas Backstrom as his starter against Colorado despite being pulled early against the Oilers.

"I've got total confidence in Backy to play that game," Yeo said. "This one hurts, but I've seen this group respond enough, I've seen our leadership enough, to still be confident."

Avalanche: After responding briefly to the scathing and pointed criticism from veteran goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, the Avalanche are back to being the worst team in the Western Conference. But in addition to being a much better team at home - 12-8-3 compared to 4-16-4 on the road after Friday's 5-4 shootout win over the Phoenix Coyotes - Colorado will have something on the line for the first time in a long time - a chance to play spoiler.

Who's hot: There aren't a lot of hot streaks on a Wild team that is ice cold in April, with forward Zack Parise's modest two-game point streak snapped Friday, leaving him with two goals and two assists in his last six games. … Giguere was 3-0-2 in his last five games heading into Friday's game in Phoenix, but the Wild may have gotten a break when he left late in the third period with an apparent right leg injury. Replacement Semyon Varlamov, who now figures to start the season finale against Minnesota, had lost four straight before winning the shootout in relief against the Coyotes.

Injury report: For the Wild, forwards Jason Pominville (concussion) is doubtful after not playing Friday but Mike Rupp (lower body) did play after being listed as questionable. Forward Dany Heatley is out for the season with a shoulder injury. … Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson (hand) missed Friday's game and is questionable, as is Giguere after the late-game injury against the Coyotes

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