WILD (18-11-5) at AVALANCHE (21-9-0)
TV: Altitude; KTVK
Last 10: Minnesota 3-6-1; Colorado 6-4-0
Season series: Saturday's game is the third of five between the Wild and Avalanche this regular season. Colorado won the first two, sweeping a home-and-home set at the end of November, including a 3-2 shootout win on Nov. 30.
Big story: It might look like there's lots of time left in the schedule, but these teams are desperate for points in a quest to grab third place in the Central Division.
Minnesota and Colorado enter Saturday with the Avalanche one point ahead of the Wild, and with three of its next four games at home, the Avalanche will look to build on its lead. The Wild, meanwhile, in the midst of a stretch of seven of eight on the road, are trying to hang in the race.
Wild: One of the reasons Minnesota has gone 3-4-1 in its past eight games is the absence of forward Mikael Granlund, which has led to a lack of production behind the top line of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville.
The latest move by Wild coach Mike Yeo to create something offensively is the recall of center Erik Haula on Friday from the American Hockey League. The Wild plan for its game Saturday against the Avalanche is to have Haula center the second line, playing between Nino Niederreiter and Pominville. That would move Charlie Coyle from second-line center to Pominville's spot on right wing with Parise and Koivu.
Whether that's the plan Yeo sticks with, the Wild need to find goals from somewhere. Pominville (15) and Parise (14) have scored 38.2 percent of the Wild's 76 non-shootout goals. In eight games without Granlund, the Wild have 14 goals.
Avalanche: Matt Duchene has scored 20 goals two times in his career and played in an NHL All-Star Game, but could the Avalanche forward be skating into elite territory?
He had a hand in all three Avalanche goals in regulation Thursday, scoring two and setting up a third, then scored the deciding goal in the shootout when Colorado rallied to beat the Winnipeg Jets 4-3 at MTS Centre.
The three-point game puts Duchene on pace for career-bests of 41 goals and 70 points. No Colorado player has had a 70-point season since Paul Stastny in 2009-10, and the most recent Avalanche skater to score that many goals was Milan Hejduk (50) in 2002-03.
Who's hot: Wild goalie Josh Harding has allowed six goals in his past four games and entered the weekend ranked in the top four in the NHL in wins, goals-against average, save percentage and shutouts. … Avalanche forward Ryan O'Reilly had a goal and an assist in the win against the Jets; he had one point in his previous eight games.
Injury report: Granlund (concussion) is the only Wild player on the injury list. … Avalanche forward Alex Tanguay (hip/knee) is out Saturday, but defensemen Jan Hejda (knee) and Ryan Wilson (back) could return to the lineup.
Colorado Avalanche staff contributed to this story.
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