Wild seek key victory vs. Avalanche
A victory by the Wild tonight would match the club's best start in franchise history. Recent history says the Avalanche may have trouble playing spoiler.
Minnesota has won seven of its last nine games overall and will try to beat Colorado for the 11th time in the last 14 meetings this evening. A win would give the Wild 25 points on the season, tying the 2008-09 club's team record through 19 games.
A 4-2 victory by the Wild over the Blue Jackets on Tuesday improved the club's season record to 10-5-3. That 23-point total is one off the team's record through 18 games, set by the 2006-07 team.
Niklas Backstrom made a season-high 43 saves and Matt Cullen and Nick Johnson scored 20 seconds apart in the second period to tie the game. Cal Clutterbuck then put Minnesota ahead for good in the third and Devin Setoguchi capped the scoring with an empty-net tally.
"We were supporting each other out there tonight," said Clutterbuck. "Overall everyone is happy lately and it's been fun to go out there and play, we want to keep this going."
The first-place Wild wrapped a five-game homestand and begin a six-game trip tonight. It is the longest for the club since a seven-game swing from Jan. 5-20, 2007.
Marek Zidlicky left Tuesday's win with a head injury and is doubtful for tonight, while Marco Scandella and Guillaume Latendresse remain out with concussions. Scandella missed his second game in a row, while Latendresse sat out his third straight.
Minnesota won four of six over Colorado last season and is 17-4-2 in the past 23 regular-season meetings. It has also won 11 of its last 14 at home versus the Avs.
Cullen led the Wild with seven points versus the Avalanche a season ago, while Backstrom is 17-4-2 with a 2.27 goals-against average and two shutouts in 23 career starts against the franchise.
The Avalanche are set to begin an eight-game homestand on Friday but first wrap a quick two-game trip. The swing got off to a rough start on Tuesday with a 6-3 loss in Pittsburgh.
Matt Duchene, David Jones and Jay McClement all scored in the first period, but the Penguins scored the next five goals. Semyon Varlamov gave up each score on 33 shots as Colorado lost for the eighth time in 10 games and fell to 6-3-1 on the road this season.
"It's funny because it's the opposite of our play at home," noted Avs head coach Joe Sacco. "We had a real good start and just weren't able to finish it."
In his first game as team captain, Milan Hejduk had an assist to give him six points over his previous four games. He had four goals and seven points versus the Wild last year.