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Wild Begins Divisional Stretch Against Avalanche

Three straight games, four of next five will be against Central Division foes

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

ST. PAUL -- The Minnesota Wild will try and get its offense on track against the Colorado Avalanche at 7 p.m. Saturday night at Xcel Energy Center.

Minnesota has been involved in back-to-back 1-0 games, losing to the Calgary Flames on Tuesday before winning by the same margin against the Boston Bruins on Thursday. Both contests were at home.

The Wild, which ranked first in the NHL in goals scored as recently as two weeks ago, has dipped to 18th in the NHL entering play on Friday.

Despite a lack of finish, the Wild (9-6-1) has been the League's stingiest defensive team. It's 29 goals allowed are the fewest in the NHL and its plus-13 goal differential is the best in the Western Conference.

"We held [Boston] to 26 shots," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "They had a few pretty good chances and one goal called back, but for the most part, if we can hold teams and keep playing defensively like that, it shouldn't alter our scoring. Eventually, we're going to score. Last year [in Anaheim], we didn't score. The first 10 games, we were shut out six times, but we stayed the course and the ones that were hitting the post the beginning of the year were now starting to go in. I feel this team's going to be very similar."

Minnesota will be trying to even the season series with the Avalanche (7-9-0) after Colorado won 1-0 at Pepsi Center two weeks ago. Each team played a strong game, but it was Gabriel Landeskog's power-play goal in the third period that was the difference. 

The victory was just Colorado's third in the past 11 meetings against the Wild, which is 8-2-1 against its Central Division rivals over that span.

Colorado could see the return of forward Matt Duchene, who hasn't played in a week because of a concussion. He returned to practice on Wednesday but did not play in the Avs' 3-2 loss to Dallas on Thursday. 

The Avs could also get back Landeskog, who missed Thursday's game with a lower-body injury. 

The game on Saturday marks the first of three straight and four of five against divisional foes; Minnesota will play Monday night at Dallas before returning home the day before Thanksgiving to play the Winnipeg Jets. After a Black Friday game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the Wild hits the road for the second half of a back-to-back Nov.26 against the St. Louis Blues.

"If you want make hay when the sun shines, these are the times you gotta bear down and be successful," Boudreau said. 

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