It's been 58 days since the last Minnesota Wild-Colorado Avalanche game, but enough familiarity has been bred between the Central Division rivals to make up for the time off.
With how frequently these teams have met over the past two seasons, the Wild knows the kind of game that Colorado will bring to Xcel Energy Center on Saturday.
"We've played these guys enough to know that the pace of how you execute, and the pace of play and how you counter from offense-to-defense, and vice versa, is going to be a huge part of the game," Head Coach Mike Yeo said.
The last time these two teams played was both Minnesota and Colorado's season-opener. After trailing 4-1 entering the third period at Pepsi Center, the Wild scored four times over a span 5:07 to storm back and win, 5-4.
"That was a long time ago," said Zach Parise, who recorded a hat trick in that comeback victory. "For us, we've had a lot of success against these guys when we're getting in the offensive zone.
"They can clog up the neutral zone pretty well, but we have, in the past, had some pretty long shifts in their zone, and that should be something we're trying to do all night."
Parise's hat trick goal, which proved to be the game-winner, came on the power play. The Wild's power play currently sits at 19.5 percent, which would be the highest Minnesota has been on the power play in a season since 2008-09. But of late, the power play, and specifically the top unit, has stagnated.
The Wild's power play has scored one goal on 10 opportunities over its past four games, with the second unit providing the goal on Thursday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
"We turned the puck over probably 15 times on the power play last game," said Parise, who owns three of the Wild's 16 power-play goals this season. "That's never really a recipe for many goals."
Parise returned from a sprained MCL four games ago, getting reinserted on the top unit on the half-wall opposite Mikael Granlund.
"It's all just small things that we're getting away from that are really making a big difference that we've touched on a little bit the last couple of days in practice, and on some video," he said. "Hopefully tonight we can get a couple and get some good chances."
The Wild won't be making any personnel changes to its lineup on Saturday, but will be shuffling its defensive pairings. Ryan Suter will start the game to the left of Jared Spurgeon, while Jonas Brodin will play to the right of Marco Scandella.
"I feel really comfortable. I've played with almost every guy in a game," Brodin said. "We always change it up. I like to play with everyone, and it doesn't matter if I play left or right, actually."
As Brodin said, pairings get shuffled in game quite a bit. Suter had started the past two games with Brodin to his right, but took plenty of shifts with Spurgeon. With Scandella having recently come back from a lower-body injury, Yeo said it would afford the Wild a chance to stabilize Suter's minutes.
Since Nov. 19, the first game of five games Scandella missed, Suter has played 29 or more minutes six of seven total games, three times exceeding 31 minutes. In the first 17 games of the season, Suter surpassed the 29-minute mark three times.
"There's a big difference when we're chasing games, too," Yeo said. "If we can get a few more leads, than it certainly helps us a little bit. It's something we have to keep an eye on, and we talked about this at the start of the season."
Still though, as Yeo pointed out, Suter's play has not dropped off.
"He's been doing a good job, even though his minutes have been jacked up," Yeo said. "He's still getting involved in the rush, and he's still doing these things offensively that we were hoping he was going to do at the start of the year.
"But we just have to make sure that we keep an eye on it and give him the best chance to do those things."
Here is the Wild's projected lineup:
Jason Zucker – Mikko Koivu – Nino Niederreiter
Zach Parise – Mikael Granlund – Jason Pominville
Thomas Vanek – Charlie Coyle – Justin Fontaine
Chris Porter – Erik Haula – Ryan Carter
Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon
Marco Scandella – Jonas Brodin
Nate Prosser – Matt Dumba
PREGAME HAPPY HOUR
Start Saturday's festivities a little earlier with our pre-game happy hour, from 4:45pm - 6:45pm, on top of the box office at Xcel Energy Center.
Two full bars will be serving Anheuser-Busch beers, liquor and Chankaska wine, as well as 20oz bottles of soda and water as you gear up for tonight’s match-up against the Colorado Avalanche. Popcorn, chips, and candy will also be available for purchase.