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Wild want to stay out of penalty box, 4-on-4 situations

by Rick Sadowski

DENVER -- The Minnesota Wild want to be more effective slowing down the fleet Colorado Avalanche forwards Saturday in Game 2 of their best-of-7 Western Conference First Round series at Pepsi Center (9:30 p.m. ET; CNBC, RDS, TSN, FS-N, ALT).

The Wild did a relatively good job in Game 1 until they became more conservative than coach Mike Yeo would like trying to protect a 4-2 lead in an eventual 5-4 overtime loss.

"As we got a little bit almost into a protect mode, we started to back up a little more instead of being in their face a little bit," Yeo said Saturday. He said part of the Avalanche's strategy is to try to create 4-on-4 skating situations, an advantage for their speed game.

"I think it's a tactic that they're trying to employ," he said. "No question when they're down, of course they want to play 4-on-4 and open up a little more ice. That's something we're always talking about to our guys, trying to get out of those battles, trying to get out of those scrums. We want to play harder between the whistles, but hopefully the people that are calling the game are aware of that and judging it the right way."

Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said he "certainly doesn't mind" playing 4-on-4, but suggested it isn't part of the game plan.

"We like our speed and it certainly opens up the ice a bit more for us, which is great," he said. "At the same time, we try to get away from the scrums. It's not a good thing for the game of hockey. I know it's good for the players to show that they're in the game, but we'd rather focus on playing a hard game and finish our checks when we have a chance."

Yeo said the Wild needs to stay disciplined and can't afford to take retaliatory penalties.

"We're going to keep playing in-your-face hockey, and as this goes on we have to have to make sure that we keep getting harder," he said. "If they cross-check us, we don't have to do anything back, we can look them in the eye and hopefully it'll come to the point where we start getting on the power play."

The Wild went 1-for-2 on power plays in Game 1; the Avalanche went 0-for-4. Minnesota outshot Colorado 2-1 shorthanded.

The Wild's only lineup changes: Center Erik Haula will move from the fourth line to the third unit, and goalie Darcy Kuemper is expected to dress as Ilya Bryzgalov's backup after missing eight games with an upper-body injury.

Roy said he expects center Matt Duchene to miss the entire series because of his left knee injury. Duchene was injured March 29 against the San Jose Sharks.

"I don't think we will see Matt in this series," Roy said. "I'll be very, very surprised. He hasn't started skating yet. I don't think we will see him."

Center John Mitchell sustained a concussion April 10 against the Vancouver Canucks and is day-to-day, Roy said, adding, "but he's not even close. He hasn't even started riding the bike. He's not ready to play."

Here are the projected lineups:


Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle

Matt Moulson - Mikael Granlund - Jason Pominville

Matt Cooke - Erik Haula - Nino Niederreiter

Cody McCormick - Kyle Brodziak - Stephane Veilleux

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Jonas Brodin - Marco Scandella

Nate Prosser - Clayton Stoner

Ilya Bryzgalov

Darcy Kuemper

Scratched: Jonathon Blum, John Curry, Dany Heatley

Injured: Niklas Backstrom (abdominal), Keith Ballard (groin), Josh Harding (illness), Jason Zucker (quad)

Suspended: Mike Rupp


Gabriel Landeskog - Paul Stastny - Jamie McGinn

Ryan O'Reilly - Nathan MacKinnon - PA Parenteau

Cody McLeod - Marc-Andre Cliche - Maxime Talbot

Patrick Bordeleau - Brad Malone - Paul Carey

Jan Hejda - Erik Johnson

Nate Guenin - Tyson Barrie

Andre Benoit - Nick Holden

Semyon Varlamov

Jean-Sebastien Giguere

Scratched: Reto Berra, Stefan Elliott, Ryan Wilson

Injured: Matt Duchene (knee), John Mitchell (concussion) Cory Sarich (back), Alex Tanguay (hip surgery)

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