Wild-Avalanche Preview

The Colorado Avalanche got back into the win column with their

best offensive performance in three weeks their last time out. On

Saturday night, they’ll try to improve to 3-0 this season against

the Minnesota Wild, who are enduring a bigger offensive slump than

the Avs were.

Colorado (21-9-0) avoided a third straight loss by defeating

Winnipeg 4-3 in a shootout Thursday. The Avalanche, who had managed

one goal in both of the defeats, hadn’t hit the four-goal mark

since a 4-3 win over Phoenix on Nov. 21 – a span of eight

games.

Though the final tally came via the tiebreaker, the Avs will

take it after falling behind 2-0 just 5:25 into the game.

”That’s the dangerous part of this because sometimes when you

get behind you have the tendency to go individually and that’s not

what we did tonight,” coach Patrick Roy said. ”We (stuck) to the

plan, we (stuck) together, we played as a team.”

Matt Duchene powered Colorado offensively, scoring twice with an

assist in regulation and adding a shootout goal. The club leader

with 14 goals snapped an eight-game goal drought – seven coming

after he returned from a stomach injury.

His goal late in the first cut the Jets’ lead in half as the Avs

went on to tie for the most wins through 30 games in franchise

history.

”They started really well. You’ve got to tip your hat

sometimes,” Duchene said. “Getting that one kind of gave us some

life and got the momentum going again, so it was a big goal.”

Colorado generated enough scoring to sweep a home-and-home

series with Minnesota on Nov. 29 and 30, winning 3-1 on the road

and 3-2 at Denver. Gabriel Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon combined

for seven points in those games as the Avs ended a three-game skid

against their division rival.

The Wild (18-11-5) could now be the ones with a three-game

losing streak in the series if they can’t figure out how to score

more. Minnesota has recorded 15 goals during a 3-6-1 slump,

totaling one or none six times in that stretch.

They managed one apiece in dropping their last two contests,

falling 3-1 at San Jose on Thursday. Jonas Brodin scored for

Minnesota, loser of three of four overall and five straight on the

road.

The Wild gave the Sharks four power plays in the first period,

with San Jose converting on two of them. The Sharks went 3 for 7 in

the game.

”Our guys battled hard. We didn’t do enough, there’s no

question,” coach Mike Yeo said. “We were in the box too much. We

didn’t finish well enough. Penalty kills, it doesn’t matter how

many times (opposing players) dive or embellish, we have to make

sure we kill them off.”

The Wild’s 77.9 penalty kill percentage is toward the bottom of

the league.

Minnesota has not scored first in any of its last 10 losses, and

it’s given up the first goal in eight consecutive road games, going

2-5-1 in that span.

“It’s tough to come back when teams have leads,” forward Jason

Pominville told the team’s official website.

Doing that has been impossible against Colorado when the Avs are

ahead after two periods, going 18-0 in that situation.

Josh Harding seems likely to be back in net for the Wild after

sitting out the second of back-to-back games Thursday. Harding was

in goal for both contests against Colorado last month.