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Avalanche-Wild Preview

Saturday, 11.18.2006 / 5:00 PM

Associated Press

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Avalanche-Wild Preview
Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild

After concluding a tough road trip on a positive note, the Minnesota Wild return to the Xcel Energy Center, where they host the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday trying to extend the NHL's best home record.

Minnesota (12-6-0) won nine of its first 10 games to open the season, but has gone just 3-5 since.

The Wild looked like they would suffer yet another road loss, but rallied for an impressive comeback victory Thursday. They defeated Nashville 7-6 in a shootout to finish their season-high five-game road trip 2-3.

Minnesota trailed 6-3 late in the second period but refused to quit, and finished with a season-high 45 shots on goal.

"I was telling the guys to keep plugging," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. "We were doing fine. We were just having a little tough luck. Coming back like this is great for our team. It shows we don't let up."

Starting goaltender Manny Fernandez was pulled in the second period after giving up five goals on 20 shots. He is just 1-4 with a 4.04 goals-against average in his last seven starts.

Though Fernandez and the Wild have struggled lately, they have been outstanding at the Xcel Energy Center.

Minnesota has the NHL's best home record at 8-1, and is outscoring opponents 33-19 in those games. The Wild are converting a league-best 27.3 percent (15-of-55) of their power-play opportunities at home, while killing off 91.1 percent (41-of-45) of their opponents' power-play chances in those contests.

Right wing Brain Rolston has scored eight of his team-leading 11 goals at home, and Fernandez is 6-1 with a 2.15 GAA and one shutout at St. Paul.

Fernandez had 32 saves in the Wild's 4-1 loss Oct. 29 to the Avalanche (8-9-2) and has split Minnesota's two games with its division rival. He has won three of his last four games against the Avalanche, but is just 5-11 with a tie and a 3.10 GAA lifetime against them.

Colorado snapped a season-high four-game losing streak with a 3-0 victory Friday over Columbus. Backup goalie Peter Budaj made 25 saves for his third career shutout, and the first for the Avalanche this season.

"It's always great when a goalie gets a shutout," Budaj said. "Our team made a tremendous effort tonight. We capitalized on our chances. We did the little things right."

Rookie Paul Stastny opened the scoring 7:29 into the opening period with a power-play goal, the Avalanche's first goal in their last 21 opportunities with the man-advantage.

Colorado has converted just 3-of-44 (6.8 percent) power-play chances on the road this season, the worst mark in the league.

Starting goalie Jose Theodore is expected to be back in goal against on Saturday, and is 2-1 with a tie, a shutout and a 1.41 GAA in his career against the Wild.

Joe Sakic had an assist Friday to tie Stan Mikita for 14th on the career list with 926. Sakic leads Colorado with eight goals, and has 13 goals and 15 assists in 28 career games against Minnesota.

2006-2007 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Mar 31 '07MIN 1 at COL 2P. Stastny
Mar 11 '07COL 2 at MIN 3 - OTB. Burns
Feb 22 '07MIN 4 at COL 3M. Koivu
Feb 01 '07MIN 5 at COL 3M. Gaborik
Jan 06 '07COL 2 at MIN 1 - SOM. Hejduk
Nov 18 '06COL 2 at MIN 1 - SOJ. Sakic
Oct 29 '06MIN 1 at COL 4T. Arnason
Oct 05 '06COL 2 at MIN 3 - OTT. White
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GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
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GoalieGPRec.GASAGAASv%
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