Season Series – This is the final meeting of six between these Northwest division rivals. Colorado has a chance to split the season series on Tuesday night as Minnesota has won three of the five games already played, including their last meeting, a 3-2 decision at Xcel Energy Center. David Jones tallied two goals for Colorado in that contest, but John Madden notched the game-winning marker in the second period.
Big Story – Since these two squads squared off for the second time this season on Dec. 23 in Colorado, they have basically swapped places in the Northwest Division. Going into that meeting, Colorado was coming off of a six-game winning streak, while Minnesota was two games out from a five-game winless skid. Going into Tuesday's contest, however, Colorado has dropped 15 of its last 16 in the worst stretch in Avalanche history, while Minnesota has hovered right on the .500 mark in its last ten games. It has been good enough to keep Minnesota right in the playoff mix in the West.
Avalanche – Colorado continues its struggle to win games as the final month of the regular season approaches. The slump started for the Avalanche at the end of January and stretched through the month of February. Things looked hopeful for a turnaround in recent games that the squad lost by just a one-goal margin, but this came to an abrupt end on Saturday night when the Edmonton Oilers dominated Colorado, 5-1.
The troubles in that game started with Edmonton’s first two goals, which were both tallied on the power play.
"You can't dig yourself a hole like that, and that comes from not taking penalties in the first place," David Jones said. "Just bearing down on the penalty kill, I think, and bearing down our chances on the power play. We had a chance to get back into the game. We just didn't give a good effort, I think."
The string of losses has certainly played into the team's overall confidence level, something that has not gone unnoticed by the coaching staff in Colorado.
"Obviously, tonight was nowhere near good enough performance," coach Joe Sacco told the Denver Post. "I see a lot of our younger players not playing with confidence right now. They're in between the game right now. They're not on their toes, we're on our heels right now. It's no excuse."
Wild – Minnesota is battling hard for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, and is right on the fringe with 75 points going into Tuesday's contest. The Wild suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Buffalo Sabres on Sunday after rallying back from a two-goal deficit in the second period only to fall 3-2 in overtime on a Drew Stafford goal.
The Wild were happy to take one point from the Eastern Conference opponent, but the extra point would have been nice to gain ground in the West, especially since Minnesota has dropped three of its last four.
"I feel we left a point on the board," Andrew Brunette said. "I think we were sluggish in the first period, but I think we picked up the play after that and played better."
Who's Hot – David Jones has 37 points on the season (23 goals, 14 assists) with four points in his last four games. … Brent Burns is the top-scoring defenseman for the Wild with 41 points so far this season (16 goals, 25 assists). He has four points in his last five games.
Injury Report – Ryan O'Byrne is expected to return on Tuesday after suffering a laceration from a skate in the face which required 100 stitches to repair. Captain Adam Foote returned on Saturday from a knee injury, while Ryan Stoa will miss the next three weeks following an appendectomy. It was also officially announced that Peter Mueller will not return this season due to lingering concussion symptoms. … In Minnesota, Cal Clutterbuck is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, while Mikko Koivu (broken finger), Cam Barker (upper body), Guillaume Latendresse (groin), Josh Harding (ACL/MCL) and James Sheppard (knee) are out.
Stat Pack – Jose Theodore made 30 saves for the Wild on Sunday following a 40-save performance on Thursday night at the Rangers and 46 saves Feb. 25 at Anaheim.
Puck Drop – O'Byrne will return to the roster for Colorado after suffering a laceration during a Feb. 23 contest against the Oilers where Taylor Hall’s skate swiped his cheek. Amazingly, O’Byrne finished his shift before receiving medical attention.
"I didn't know how bad it was," O'Byrne said. "I didn't really feel much pain, so I figured I might as well finish my shift. … They said that there is a nerve there and it just missed it. It kind of cut right through, but the nerve was intact. Obviously, we've seen it before with (Richard) Zednik. I was fortunate. It could have hit me in the eye or the neck and I'm just glad to be ready to go again."