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Minnesota Looks To Maintain Dominance Against Avs

by Mike Doyle / Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild has seen some high times against the Colorado Avalanche since last year’s first-round Stanley Cup Playoffs series win.

This season, the Wild has yet to yield a goal against the Avs in three games. According to Elias Sports Bureau, it’s the first time in franchise history the Wild has shutout the same opponent in three consecutive meetings in a season, becoming the first NHL team since 2007-08 (Detroit vs. Colorado and San Jose vs. Arizona) to blank an opponent in three straight. According to Elias, Minnesota is trying to become the first NHL team to post four straight shutouts against one opponent in the same season since 1928, when the (NHL) Pittsburgh Pirates earned four straight shutouts against Boston (12/1/27-1/28/28).

Holding the Avs scoreless in a trio of contests might come as a surprise following last year’s intense seven-game series. The Wild knows all about the young firepower Colorado boasts up front. Last night, the Avalanche won in a shootout in Dallas, but Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo expects its opponent’s best effort of the year tonight.

“You look at the group of forwards they have up there and it’s a very talented group,” Yeo said to WildTV. “If you’re not sharp they’ll take advantage of it.”

Since the All-Star Break, the Wild has been the hottest team in the National Hockey League, posting a League-best 25 points (12-2-1) in 15 games. Much of the team’s recent success can be credited to goaltender Devan Dubnyk, but the Wild’s blue line has been stepping up as well. The club leads the NHL in penalty kill percentage since Jan. 27, killing 36-of-37 (97.3 percent) of opponent power play chances in its last 15 games.

The team’s top four defenseman have been instrumental, but with the loss of Jared Spurgeon, Matt Dumba, Nate Prosser and Christian Folin have all had an increased role.

“Losing (Jared Spurgeon), we knew that would not be an easy thing to overcome,” Yeo said. “I think all three of those guys have really stepped up.”

Prosser’s game is the least flashy of the three, but has been a rock on the back end. Since Jan. 15, the defenseman has only had on minus rating in one game and is a plus-10 during the stretch.

“Pross’s game has been very steady for a good two months now,” Yeo said. He likes the way he’s been skating alongside Folin. Yeo said that the club hasn’t had to shelter their minutes or fear playing them against opponents’ top lines.

For Dumba, he’s taken on more offensive responsibility with Spurgeon out, but that’s not been the most impressive part of his game according to the bench boss.

“I’m actually very pleased with how he’s playing without the puck,” Yeo said. “His gap control, the way he’s defending in his own zone.

“These are the things we’re going to need him to maintain.”

The Wild wants to build on its lead in the eighth spot in the Western Conference. Coming into tonight’s game, the Wild is up one point on the Calgary Flames and six up on the Avs.

Spurgeon Update

Defenseman Jared Spurgeon worked out today back in the State of Hockey. The blueliner was placed on Injured Reserve on Feb. 18 after taking a puck to the face against the Calgary Flames. He has missed four games with an upper-body injury.

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