WILD (25-19-3) at AVALANCHE (16-24-7)
TV: FS-North, FS-Wisconsin, Altitude
Last 10: Minnesota 4-5-1; Colorado 4-4-2
Season series: The Minnesota Wild can take comfort in a 3-0-1 edge against the Colorado Avalanche this season. These two teams started the season against each other on Jan 19 - a 4-2 win for the Wild in Minnesota - and they will now close out the regular season against one another in Colorado.
Big story: After tripping over a chance to clinch a playoff spot with a 6-1 home loss against the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night, the Wild travels to Denver for another chance to extend their season. Minnesota, which lost eight of its first 11 games in April, can secure a postseason berth by either beating the Avalanche, or getting some help with a Columbus Blue Jackets loss to the Nashville Predators. A combination of one point for the Wild and only one for Columbus would also give Minnesota the final playoff spot because they have the tiebreaker over the Blue Jackets.
Wild: In a free fall since leading the Northwest Division in early April, the Wild couldn't build off a hard-fought 2-1 win over the Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. They were demolished by an Edmonton team that had lost 19 of its 20 previous trips to the Xcel Energy Center. Now they have just 24 hours to regroup.
"It's easy to get derailed by a game like that," forward Kyle Brodziak said after the loss to the Oilers "It's tough to explain … I don't think anyone really knows what happened. … You just forget about this. Tomorrow is a new day and we're fighting for our lives now. We gotta lay it all on the line and play as desperate as we possibly can."
It would be easy to ask why they didn't do just that against the Oilers, but there's not much time to answer those questions. Coach Mike Yeo didn't waste any time announcing Niklas Backstrom as his starter against Colorado despite being pulled early against the Oilers.
"I've got total confidence in Backy to play that game," Yeo said. "This one hurts, but I've seen this group respond enough, I've seen our leadership enough, to still be confident."
Avalanche: Colorado is coming off a 5-4 shootout win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Friday with Matt Duchene leading the way with three assists and the deciding goal in the tiebreaker. Duchene and PA Parenteau, who had a goal and an assist against the Coyotes, are tied for the team lead in scoring with 43 points.
The Avs found themselves down 2-0 in the first period but they scored three unanswered goals in a matter of 4:07 late in the stanza to take a 3-2 lead into the first intermission. The Avalanche held a 4-3 advantage in the third period before the Coyotes scored on the power play to tie it. Colorado prevailed in the shootout with Duchene and Parenteau scoring on both of their attempts while goalie Semyon Varlamov, who entered the game late in the third period, stopped both Phoenix shooters.
The Avalanche will look to finish the season strong with two wins and spoil the division-rival Wild's postseason hopes.
Who's hot: There aren't a lot of hot streaks on a Wild team that is ice cold in April, with forward Zack Parise's modest two-game point streak snapped Friday, leaving him with two goals and two assists in his last six games. … Giguere was 3-0-2 in his last five games heading into Friday's game in Phoenix, but the Wild may have gotten a break when he left late in the third period with a groin injury. Cody McLeod has five goals over his last six games for the Avalanche.
Injury report: For the Wild, forwards Jason Pominville (concussion) is doubtful after not playing Friday but Mike Rupp (lower body) did play after being listed as questionable. Forward Dany Heatley is out for the season with a shoulder injury. … Colorado defenseman Erik Johnson (wrist) missed Friday's game and is questionable, as is Giguere after the late-game injury against the Coyotes.
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