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ColoradoAvalanche.com web staff contributed to this story.
WILD at AVALANCHE
Best-of-7 series tied 3-3
TV: Altitude, CNBC, Fox Sports North, TSN2, RDS
Big story: The Avalanche and Wild will play the second of three Game 7s on the NHL playoffs schedule Wednesday night, following the Rangers and Flyers and preceding the Sharks and Kings. The winner between Colorado and Minnesota will take on Chicago in the Western Conference's second round, after the Blackhawks defeated St. Louis in six games on Sunday afternoon.
The home team has won every game so far in this series, and the Avalanche will look to continue that trend in front of sure-to-be raucous Pepsi Center.
History says the game is going to be close: 12 of the past 15 Stanley Cup Playoffs matchups between the Wild and Avalanche have been decided by one goal. That includes two games in this series when empty-net goals late have increased the final score.
Minnesota defeated Colorado 3-2 in overtime in 2003, in the only Game 7 the teams have played against each other. It was the final game in the playing career of Avalanche coach Patrick Roy, adding a unique angle to an already interesting game.
“What I remember about that game is we played against a team that just competed," Roy said Tuesday. "They were well coached by Jacques Lemaire, and he took what was a 3-1 lead for us, and they beat us here in Denver in Game 5, they beat us in Game 6 in overtime, and they beat us in Game 7. I just saw a group that was resilient on the other side all year. This is how they made the playoffs. It’s a bit of what we have been doing all year.”
Wild: Minnesota is confident heading into Game 7, coming off a 5-2 win in Game 6 that was a 3-2 score until two empty-netters iced the win. The Wild has been very competitive at Pepsi Center in this series, but it hasn't resulted in a win. Minnesota held a two-goal third-period lead in Game 1 and led in the final minutes of Game 5. Colorado scored extra-attacker goals late to force overtime, and the Avalanche won each game in extra time.
"We have to be excited about this opportunity and go in there and play our best game of the series," Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said. "We are going there with a real purpose in how we play that game. So it's going to be fun."
The series is the only one in either conference in which the road team has not won at least one game. At home, Minnesota had the advantage of being able to match lines in order to slow Colorado's top group. In Game 6, Yeo looked ahead to a potential deciding game and said he didn't care who was matched up with whom.
"For us to win [Game 6], I knew we weren't going to get the matchups we needed. Everybody needs to know they can play against anybody," Yeo said. "I guess I just hope we're due. You'd like to think the road team has a chance of winning a game."
Avalanche: After falling behind 2-0 in Game 6 Colorado did a lot of good things the rest of the game, and an argument could be made they outplayed the Wild, much like Minnesota likely felt in Game 1. Paul Stastny scored a shorthanded goal late in the first period to steal momen tum, and Nick Holden added a power-play goal in the second, giving the Avs their first man-advantage score since a Game 2 empty-netter.
Matt Duchene assisted on Holden's score in his first game back on the ice since injuring his medial collateral ligament on March 29. His presence didn't result in a Colorado victory, but the Avs might have played their best game in the series with him back in the rotation. Roy said prior to Game 6 he expected Duchene to play limited minutes after returning from injury, but the early deficit changed those plans.
"It's funny because I said he would play about 10 minutes and play on the fourth line," Roy said. "But 2-0, I put the plan in the garbage can and was, 'Let's go.' I thought he responded well. I thought he had a really good game. It would have been normal for him to be a little bit rusty, but I thought he played outstanding."
Duchene led the Avalanche with 70 points during the regular season, and he quickly moved up to the second line Monday, centering a line with Ryan O'Reilly and PA Parenteau. Roy said that's where Duchene will begin Game 7, giving the Avalanche the top six its utilized for most of the season, in which it tied a franchise-record with 52 wins.
"We know we played a good game [Monday night in St. Paul]. This is very positive to me," Roy said. "Then if you keep going, now you have to focus on playing a good game and competing. If we compete well then we'll be in good shape."
Who's hot: Wild forward Zach Parise scored two goals and assisted on two in Game 6. He has three goals in the past two games and is tied with Avalanche forward Nathan MacKinnon with 10 points for the NHL lead in the 2014 playoffs. … Stastny's breakaway in Game 6 was his first goal of the series away from Denver. He leads this series with four goals and has five assists.
Injury report: Wild forward Jason Zucker (quad), defenseman Keith Ballard (groin) and goaltenders Josh Harding (illness) and Niklas Backstrom (abdominal) are out. … Avalanche defensemen Tyson Barrie (knee) and Cory Sarich (back) and forwards John Mitchell (concussion) and Alex Tanguay (hip) are out.