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WILD at AVALANCHE
Colorado leads best-of-7 series 3-2
TV: Altitude, CNBC, Fox Sports North, TSN, RDS2
Big story: Colorado has a chance Monday night at Xcel Energy Center to eliminate Minnesota and advance to the Western Conference's second round of the playoffs for the first time since 2008, when it defeated the Wild in six games, earning a semifinal spot against Detroit.
Minnesota, which, like the Avalanche, hasn't lost in the series on home ice and will need to continue the trend to avoid elimination in front of its home fans.
"Our season depends on [Monday]," Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper said.
Avalanche: Colorado stole the momentum in the series by winning Game 5 and held serve on home ice. Now, the Avalanche look to become the first road team in the series to win a game. Colorado has been without Matt Duchene, who led the Avalanche with 70 points in the regular season, since he sustained a left knee injury to his medial collateral ligament at the end of March.
Avalanche coach Patrick Roy said early in this best-of-seven series that Duchene would likely not play at any point against Minnesota, but after several days of individual followed by line-rush practice, it appears the Avs' 2009 first-round draft selection (thrid overall) could be ready to rejoin the lineup.
Duchene joined his teammates during Saturday's morning skate, prior to Game 5, and he also participated in battle drills, another encouraging sign.
"The tough part is right now he hasn't had a chance to have a full practice with us," Roy said Sunday before traveling to St. Paul. "[Monday] he's going to have another morning skate, and we'll see. We'll see how it goes. He seems to react well right now to the treatment, and he looks good.
We're going to be patient. We're going to see how he feels after the morning skate. We'll make a decision after that."
Duchene would give the Avalanche a true center on their second scoring line and help to alleviate some of the pressure on Colorado's top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Paul Stastny and Nathan MacKinnon. It would also allow Ryan O'Reilly to move back to wing, where he has been much more comfortable during the course of this season and the season.
"If he is back it's a huge addition for us," O'Reilly said. "He's been one of our best players all year, and for me, he really helps create offense playing on a line. He brings so much to the table it makes it a lot difficult for them (opponents)."
Wild: Minnesota will look to draw upon its experiences this season of playing under less than ideal circumstances. When that's been the case the Wild have seemingly responded by playing some of its best hockey. Although not entirely the same, captain Mikko Koivu compared Game 6 to Games 3 and 4, when Minnesota came back from Denver down 2-0 in the series.
"I thought that was a similar situation," Koivu said. "Obviously, we recognize what's on the line. It's all about preparation right now, and we'll be ready when the puck drops."
Minnesota missed out on chances to put Colorado away late in Game 5 and fell short when Avs wing PA Parenteau tied it with 1:14 left in regulation and Colorado rookie Nathan MacKinnon flicked one past Kuemper in overtime, giving him an NHL-best 10 points this postseason.
"We're frustrated with the way we played -- I think we can play better," Minnesota defenseman Ryan Suter said. "To have a chance at the end of that game to win it, [it] was kind of a surprise with the way we played. I didn't think we played that well."
Who's hot: Wild forward Zach Parise scored his first goal of the series Saturday and leads the Wild with six points in the series. … All MacKinnon needed to get back on track was a trip home. MacKinnon was held scoreless in Games 3 and 4 after scoring seven points through the first two games against the Wild. He added two assists to his Game 5 goal for his third three-point game of the series.
"We've mentioned how hard he works, how receptive he is to teaching, the 1-2-3 stride, on and on," Roy said. "What's even more impressive, capable of playing him over 21 minutes or 22 minutes. There's not very many 18-year-olds you're capable of putting on the ice for that many minutes in a playoff game, especially in a crunch time. Early in the season I was afraid to put him at the end of periods. Now it's like, 'I want him there. I want him to go there.' He's playing so well right now."
Injury report: Forward Jason Zucker (quad), defenseman Keith Ballard (groin) and goaltenders Josh Harding (illness) and Niklas Backstrom (abdominal) are out for the Wild. … Avalanche defensemen Tyson Barrie (knee) and Cory Sarich (back), forwards John Mitchell (concussion) and Alex Tanguay (hip) are out.