WILD (29-20-6) at AVALANCHE (33-14-5)
TV: Altitude, Fox Sports North
Last 10: Minnesota 6-3-1; Colorado 7-2-1
Season series: This is the fifth and final game. The Colorado Avalanche have won three of the first four meetings with two games being decided in a shootout. The Minnesota Wild are 1-0-1 at the Pepsi Center this season.
Big story: Minnesota will look to climb to within five points of Colorado for third place in the Central Division standings as the teams play out their final few games before the Olympic break.
Wild: Minnesota is coming off perhaps its most impressive victory of the season, 4-2 against the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday at the Honda Center, dealing the Ducks only their second regulation loss on home ice this season. The Wild have played some of the NHL's best teams their past three times out, earning five of a possible six points against three of the League's top-five teams (Chicago Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks, Ducks). The past two have come on the road.
"I'm just real impressed with our guys, how they battled, how they played for each other," coach Mike Yeo said Tuesday. "Those are things, obviously you can see it on the TV in how the team is playing, but when you're there, and you're standing behind the players, and you get to hear them talking and what they're saying to each other, it was certainly a fun night."
Avalanche: For much of the season Colorado has held a comfortable lead over Minnesota in the standings as well as several games in hand. Heading into Thursday, the Avalanche have three games in hand but will see that number dwindle to one by the time Colorado plays its final game before the Olympics on Feb. 8. The Avalanche have two games at Pepsi Center before embarking on a critical four-game road trip against Eastern Conference teams that will help define how close the race for third place in the Central Division will be over the regular season’s final weeks.
Colorado just came off a three-game road-trip and got two days between games for the final time before playing six games in 10 nights heading into the break.
"It's a three-game road trip, so we wanted to come out 2-1," forward Paul Stastny said following a 4-3 win against the Dallas Stars on Monday. "That was important for us. So now we have two days to rest up here and get back at it. So for us, I think it was good to end the road trip this way."
Who’s hot: It's been a series of steps for Wild forward Zach Parise as he's returned from a fractured foot that cost him 14 games. In his first game back against Chicago, Parise was simply happy to get back on the ice. Against San Jose, he got a couple of chances but couldn't find the finish. Tuesday against Anaheim, Parise scored a goal, assisted on two others and had a hand in numerous other Grade-A chances that just missed. It's no coincidence the Wild are playing some of their best hockey in several weeks with Parise back in the fold.
Gabriel Landeskog has points in three straight games for the Avalanche, including a two-assist performance against the Stars on Monday. He has five points in Colorado's past five games and has been a point-per-game player over Colorado's past 17 games.
Injury report: Minnesota will be without forward Mikko Koivu (fractured ankle), defenseman Jared Spurgeon (foot) and goalie Josh Harding (illness). … Colorado defenseman Cory Sarich (back) and forward David Van Der Gulik (head) will not play.
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