Published November 30, 2013
| Sports Network
(SportsNetwork.com) - There is still plenty of hockey to be played, but picking up two points over a division rival is good any time during the season.
The Colorado Avalanche take aim at a home-and-home sweep over the fellow Central Division resident Minnesota Wild on Saturday night in Denver.
The Avs and Wild met for the first time this season on Friday night, with Colorado picking up a 3-1 victory in Minnesota. Gabriel Landeskog had a goal and assisted on the other two, while Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 27 saves.
Giguere turned aside all 16 shots he faced in the third period and became the first goaltender in Colorado team history to begin a season 6-0-0.
Nathan MacKinnon added a goal and an assist for the Avs, who have won four of their last five following a three-game slide. They sit third overall in the division, three points back of St. Louis and two up on Minnesota.
"I thought that was a good challenge for our team," Colorado head coach Patrick Roy said. "Our division is strong. There are good tests for everybody."
Dany Heatley scored the lone Minnesota marker, while Josh Harding allowed two goals on 20 shots as the Wild dropped their third straight game. They have been outscored 9-2 over that span.
"We've lost three games in a row," Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo said. "We all have to recognize that and be better."
Yeo and his team certainly recognized the toughness of forward Zach Parise, who returned from a one-game absence stemming from a foot injury suffered on Monday versus St. Louis. It was originally announced he was expected to miss 2-to-3 weeks with the ailment.
However, Parise's return could not extend Minnesota's series winning streak over Colorado to four straight.
The Wild have won six of seven and nine of their last 11 in Denver.
Semyon Varlamov will start tonight for the Avs and is 4-4-0 with a 2.11 goals against average in his career versus the Wild.
Niklas Backstrom, the likely starter for Minnesota, is 24-5-3 with a 2.22 GAA and four shutouts lifetime against Colorado.