Avalanche begin home-and-home set with hosting Wild

Even though both the Avalanche and Wild are currently and-home series between the clubs will have a playoff feel to it.

The playoff-hopeful squads begin their key set this evening as Colorado tries to avoid a third straight loss in its trip to Minnesota.

The Avalanche opened up a three-game homestand with a victory over Anaheim on Feb. 27, extending their winning streak to four straight contests. However, their run came to an end on Thursday with a 2-0 setback to Columbus and they then wrapped the residency with a 5-1 defeat to Pittsburgh last night.

Hunwick scored the lone goal for Colorado in the third period and Jean- Sebastien Giguere was touched for four goals on 27 shots.

"This was a playoff-like game tonight and we are taking every game like it's a must-win from now on," said Giguere. "Unfortunately we didn't have enough in the tank tonight. We just can't give up the chances that we gave up tonight."

The defeat leaves Colorado three points behind the final two playoff spots in the West, currently held by Dallas and San Jose. Minnesota is tied for 12th in the conference with 66 points, four behind the Avalanche. Colorado's goal in this home-and-home is to not only get closer to a postseason seed, but also prevent Minnesota from getting back into the race as well.

"This is the time of the year when you need to string wins together," Hunwick said. "To lose two in a row at home is unacceptable. We have a chance (Sunday) to play Minnesota, a team that is right next to us in the standings. This is a mini playoff series for us. We need to go out and get as many points as we can in the next two games."

The Wild will hope to put forth a better challenge tonight then they did on Friday in Detroit. Minnesota was limited to 19 shots in a 6-0 defeat, the most goals they have allowed in a game this season.

Josh Harding got the start one night after Niklas Backstrom suffered a groin strain that will sideline him for 2-to-4 weeks, but allowed six goals on 29 shots before being replaced by Matt Hackett in the third period. He turned aside all six shots sent his way.

"Awful. It starts with me. I wasn't very good tonight," Harding said after Minnesota lost for third straight time and for the fourth time in five games.

Forwards Cal Clutterbuck and Nick Palmieri both suffered upper-body injuries versus the Red Wings and are questionable for tonight.

Goaltending has been a strength for the Wild versus the Avalanche this year. They have won three of the four meetings so far, including a pair of 1-0 victories on Nov. 17 at home and in the most recent encounter in Colorado on Feb. 2. It was Backstrom, though, who was in net for both shutouts.

The Wild have won six of seven and eight of their last 11 versus the Avalanche overall.