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Wild Warmup: Minnesota at Colorado

Wild wraps up Central Division slate against Avs in Denver

by Devin Lowe and Dan Myers / Wild.com
The essentials

Who: Minnesota Wild (47-25-8, 102 points, second place, Central Division) at Colorado Avalanche (22-54-3, 47 points, seventh place, Central Division)

Puck drop: 8:08 p.m. CT

Watch: FOX Sports North; FOX Sports GOWild Watch Bar LocationsNHL.TV

Listen: KFAN FM 100.3

Follow: @mnwildGameCenter


At the rink

The Wild will compete in its penultimate game of the regular season on Thursday when it plays the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center.

With nothing remaining in the standings to play for -- the Wild is locked into second place in the Central Division -- Minnesota is making a couple of subtle lineup swaps tonight as it appears captain Mikko Koivu will be the one to get some rest.

Koivu has played in all but one game this season. With 57 points, he's having his best season since 2010-11 and his 18 goals are the most he's scored since 2019-10. His plus-26 is far and away, the best of his career. 

"I'm fine with it," Koivu said of the rest. "We still have one more after this one, then it's not going to be that long of a break. It's fine by me."

Goaltender Devan Dubnyk will get the start in what will likely be his final tuneup before the postseason begins, as Darcy Kuemper seems primed to get the start in Saturday's finale in Arizona.

More important that rest, however, is the way Minnesota's game has been trending of late. The Wild has just one regulation loss in its past six games and wants to extend that to eight games by the time the season wraps up in the desert on Saturday night. 

Wild coach Bruce Boudreau doesn't want his team to be in a position where it backs into the playoffs, especially with the work it has done over the last two weeks to get back on track.

"I once had a coach who said, 'It's not like a faucet, you can't turn it on and off when you want to,'" Boudreau said. "It's tough to ramp it up."

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Nino Niederreiter - Eric Staal - Zach Parise

Erik Haula - Mikael Granlund - Jason Zucker

Charlie Coyle - Martin Hanzal - Jason Pominville

Jordan Schroeder - Joel Eriksson Ek - Ryan White

Ryan Suter - Jonas Brodin

Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba

Nate Prosser - Christian Folin

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

AVALANCHE

Sven Andrighetto - Nathan MacKinnon - Rene Bourque

Gabriel Landeskog - Tyson Jost - Rocco Grimaldi

Matt Nieto - J.T. Compher - Matt Duchene

Mikhail Grigorenko - Carl Soderberg - Joe Colborne

Mark Barberio - Erik Johnson

Francois Beauchemin - Tyson Barrie

Cody Goloubef - Duncan Siemens

Calvin Pickard

Jeremy Smith


The opponent

After defeating the first-place Chicago Blackhawks in overtime on Tuesday night in Denver, the Avalanche will wrap up its home schedule against the Wild before embarking on a final back-to-back against the Stars on Saturday and the Blues on Sunday. When Minnesota met Colorado most recently, on April 2 in St. Paul, the Wild came out on top, but the season series win is up for grabs as both clubs have won two games against each other. Nathan MacKinnon leads the Avalanche with 51 points in 79 games this season, and Matt Duchene and Mikko Rantanen each have 18 goals, tied for the team lead.
 

Connections

• Wild forward Chris Stewart was a first-round pick of the Avalanche in the 2006 NHL Draft and played in 166 games with the franchise from 2008-11.

• Avalanche defenseman Erik Johnson is from Bloomington, skated at the Academy of Holy Angels and played one season at the University of Minnesota.

• Wild assistant coach Darby Hendrickson played in 20 games for the Avalanche during the 2003-04 season.

• Wild assistant coach Andrew Brunette scored 70 goals and had 205 points in 246 games over three seasons in Colorado from 2005-08.


First-round matchup watch

With its win Tuesday against Carolina, Minnesota locked up home ice for the first round for the first time since 2008. Now it awaits its opponent, which almost certainly will be St. Louis or Nashville.

Those two are neck-and-neck for third place in the Central Division and a first-round series against the second-place Wild. The Blues are currently a point up on the Predators with a game in hand.

St. Louis (43-29-7, 93 points) plays Thursday at Florida and Saturday at Carolina before closing the regular season at home Sunday against Colorado. Nashville's (40-28-12, 92) remaining schedule: Thursday at Dallas, Saturday at Winnipeg.
 

Road warriors

Minnesota is one of six Western Conference teams with 20 or more wins on the road this season and one of 12 League-wide. Its 13 road losses in regulation on the year are second-fewest in the West behind Chicago (12) and tied for fourth-fewest overall. 

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