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.