Wild face critical road trip

BY foxsports • February 2, 2011

Posted: February 2, 2011 1:19 p.m. CT

FOX Sports North

The Minnesota Wild head out for a brief two-game trip this week to Colorado and Phoenix. This roadie lacks length but certainly not drama with these three teams sperated by just three points in the Western Conference standings.

The Wild will fly to Colorado Wednesday after a spine-tingling 1-0 shootout victory over the L.A. Kings. Niklas Backstrom stopped all 27 shots he faced for his third shutout of the season. However, Jose Theodore will get the start against the Avalanche -- Wild head coach Todd Richards said this was the plan all along, to ensure Theodore a chance to get back out there right after the All-Star break.

Theodore played three seasons in Colorado including a playoff series win against Minnesota back in 2006. For the season he has been rock-solid, posting an 8-7-2 record with a 2.66 GAA and a .913 save percentage.

The Wild enter this game with a 14-8-3 road record that includes an impressive 3-1 mark on their most recent road trip to Edmonton, Calgary, San Jose and Chicago right before the All-Star break.

On Saturday night the Wild will travel to play the Phoenix Coyotes at Jobbing Arena. The Coyotes figure to be a touch cranky after blowing a 3-0 lead Tuesday at San Jose before losing 5-3. Backstrom should be back in goal for the Wild and most likely he will be opposed by Ilya Bryzgalov for Phoenix.

Bryzgalov is an elite goaltender in the NHL but this year he has been hit-or-miss, coming into the weekend with a 19-12-6 record and a 2.64 GAA along with a .916 save percentage.

It's a small trip with huge points on the table for the Wild. As of Wednesday, Phoenix sits in sixth in the West with 59 points, Minnesota is currently ninth with 57 points and Colorado 10th with 56 points. However, the Wild and Avs both have two games in hand on the Coyotes.

The bottom line is this: with two wins the Wild could jump all the the way to sixth in the Western Conference. If that happens, it would be the highest Minnesota has been in the standings post the All-Star game in three seasons.

The action starts Thursday at 7:30 p.m. CST with Qwest Wild Live as we get you ready for a huge game from the Pepsi Center in Denver.

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