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Wild visit Avalanche with sweep in mind

by Dan Rosen /
WILD (9-12-3) at AVALANCHE (14-8-4)

Last 10: Minnesota 4-3-3; Colorado 3-5-2

Season Series:
This is the third meeting of the season and the second in 24 hours. The Wild have beaten the Avalanche twice already, including 5-3 in the front-end of this home-and-home Friday afternoon at Xcel Energy Center. They also won in a shootout, 3-2, on Oct. 21.

Big Story: The Wild will try to sweep the home-and-home and continue to dig themselves out of the cellar in the Northwest Division. Colorado, meanwhile, will again try to right a ship that has steered off course in the last couple of weeks after a tremendous start. They fell out of first place in the division with Calgary's win over Detroit on Friday night.

Team Scope:

Wild: Chuck Kobasew, who has scored at least 20 goals in three of his five full NHL seasons, finally broke out for the Wild on Friday with a hat trick. He previously had only one goal and two assists in 12 games. The Wild also needed goals from Andrew Brunette and Owen Nolan plus 31 saves from Niklas Backstrom to beat Colorado on Friday.

They scored twice in the third period, including an empty-netter from Kobasew to complete the trick, after Chris Stewart tied the game, 3-3, with 2:24 to play in the second. Minnesota has played well against the Avs this season and was 4-1-1 against them last season, including 2-0-1 at Pepsi Center. The Wild have won two of their last three after losing four straight.

Avalanche: The Avalanche have only two wins in their last nine games (2-5-2) and they've allowed 41 goals over that stretch of games. Craig Anderson was in net Friday (he made 27 saves) for his 24th start of the season, which is tied for first in the League with L.A.'s Jonathan Quick. Anderson was 10-2-2 in October with a .939 save percentage and 2.04 goals-against average. His updated numbers after Friday now read as this: 13-7-4 record, .916 save percentage, 2.70 GAA. Coach Joe Sacco was not clear on who would start Saturday, Anderson or Peter Budaj.

Colorado, though, has been plagued by bad penalty killing of late. The Avs gave up two power-play goals Friday and have now allowed at least one in four straight games and nine of their last 11. Milan Hejduk also suffered a knee injury Friday, but the extent is not yet known.

Who's Hot: Kobasew is coming off a hat trick, so he might get going now, which would be a huge boost to the Wild's offense. Mikko Koivu had three assists in Friday's game and now has a goal and six assists in the last five games.

For the Avs, Chris Stewart had a goal and an assist Friday and now has four points in his last three games after gaining just six points through his first 17 games.

Injury Report: The Wild will be without Martin Havlat (hamstring), Petr Sykora (concussion), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion) and Brent Burns (concussion). Havlat and Bouchard were put on I.R. before Friday's game.

The Avs have been without captain Adam Foote (jaw) for the last five games and Kyle Cumiskey missed Friday's game with a foot injury. Hejduk's knee injury makes him questionable for tonight's game, but only because we do not know the extent. Matt Hendricks (groin) and Ruslan Salei (back) remain out.

Stat Pack: The Wild are 10-1-2 in the last 13 regular season meetings against Colorado. … Avs forward David Koci ended up with a shot on goal and two penalty minutes while playing only 1:46 in Friday's game. … Both of Kobasew's career hat tricks have come against Colorado. The other came Jan. 24, 2006 when he was with Calgary. … The Wild have a power-play goal in each of their last three games after going four straight without one.

Puck Drop:
"You don't want to jinx it, but I think we're getting our identity," Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom said. "It seems like we believe in what we're doing. And if we're down one goal, we believe we can come back. That's huge for us."

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