With a hole in the schedule, the Minnesota Wild knows the value of getting two points Saturday when it plays the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center.
After a busy start to the season, Minnesota will play just once in an eight day span, allowing other teams in the Central Division to rack up points and move past the Wild in the standings.
The Wild, which hasn't played since a 2-1 loss to the Buffalo Sabres, won't play again until Thursday when it begins a three-game road trip against Eastern Conference foes Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Ottawa.
If it can't capture a victory against the Avalanche, it risks going nearly two weeks without gaining a single point.
"When everybody else is playing, they're getting two points and you're kind of stuck there not getting any," said Wild defenseman Ryan Suter. "So when you're playing, you've gotta make sure you cash in."
After defeating the Dallas Stars last Saturday at Xcel Energy Center, the Wild opened up a substantial lead on the Chicago Blackhawks. But the Wild missed an opportunity to keep pace Tuesday and has since been idle.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks have won four-straight games and now has a two-point lead on the Wild. Both teams play on Saturday.
And while it is much too early to be worrying about standings, it's critical to keep pace early in the season lest games down the stretch don't become must-wins.
"We weren't happy with the last game, not getting the points at home," said Wild forward Eric Staal. "Now it's about responding and getting back in the win column. It's a great test for us there. They're coming off a loss against Chicago, so we need to make sure we're amped up and ready."
The Avalanche have already gone through a dry spell in the schedule, going six days without playing a game at the end of last month. Colorado went 1-1 in back-to-back games last weekend but has been blown out in losses to Nashville and Chicago this week.
Like the Wild, the Avalanche know points are at a premium.
"Tomorrow is a big game," Suter said. "They've lost a couple in a row, and they're gonna come out flying. We lost one, so it's going to be a really desperate hockey game."
Colorado placed center John Mitchell on waivers on Friday afternoon. The fourth-liner has been a thorn in the Wild's side over the years, scoring five goals and chipping in six assists in 21 games against Minnesota in his career. His 11 points against the Wild is the most he has against any other opponent.