Avalanche-Wild Preview

The Minnesota Wild are struggling to score while also looking
for stability in net. The Colorado Avalanche have similar
concerns.

The Northwest Division rivals try to rebound from lopsided road
losses when they meet at the Xcel Energy Center for the first time
this season Friday night.

After outscoring opponents 15-7 during a season-high four-game
winning streak Jan. 2-8, Minnesota (21-17-5) has scored once while
losing its last two.

The Wild are 0 for 10 on the power play in the last three
games.

Defensively, Minnesota received a boost from Jose Theodore, who
posted a 1.75 goals-against average during the perfect start to
2011. The veteran, though, has yielded four scores in each of the
last two games.

“Those were the ones (Theodore) was gobbling up,” coach Todd
Richards said following Tuesday’s 5-1 loss at Nashville. “We went
all last week, and he had about 100 of those that either hit him,
or he caught it and the play was done.”

Theodore has started the last six games in place of Niklas
Backstrom (groin). However, Theodore did not practice Thursday due
to a groin injury, and the start Friday will go to rookie Anton
Khudobin.

The 24-year-old Russian, called up from the AHL last week, has
three career appearances and stopped four of five shots late in
Tuesday’s defeat. Khudobin will try to help the Wild avoid their
first three-game losing streak since an 0-3-2 skid Nov. 27-Dec.
4.

He will take on an Avalanche club that is averaging 2.0 goals
during a 3-6-2 stretch. Colorado was shut out for the third time
during that span with Wednesday’s 4-0 loss at Chicago.

“Early in that game, we might have put one in and it would have
been a different game, but we didn’t,” said All-Star center Matt
Duchene, who has three goals and an assist in eight games against
Minnesota.

The Avalanche (22-16-6) are converting nearly 20 percent of
their power plays, but they are 1 for 28 over the last eight
games.

Minnesota has killed all 19 penalties over the last seven
games.

With his club ranking among the worst in the NHL with a 3.23
GAA, Avs coach Joe Sacco could use a more efficient offense and
better special teams play in front of Craig Anderson and Peter
Budaj.

Anderson is 1-5-1 with a 3.27 GAA in his last seven starts, but
the Avalanche have scored 11 times in those games, getting shut out
twice and scoring one goal in two of those contests.

In seven starts versus Minnesota, Anderson is 1-4-2 with a 2.78
GAA.

Budaj, who has surrendered four goals in three of his last four
starts, has turned away 46 of 50 shots against the Wild this
season. He beat Minnesota 7-4 on Nov. 27 and stopped all 18 shots
he faced after Anderson was pulled in the second period of a 3-1
loss Dec. 23.

In Colorado’s last visit to the Xcel Energy Center on Dec. 21,
2009, Anderson recorded 28 saves in a 4-3 win as the Avalanche
snapped a four-game skid as the visitor in this matchup.

Minnesota is 15-5-2 against Colorado since the beginning of the
2007-08 season.