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3/13 PREGAME: Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild

The Minnesota Wild are probably sick of hearing about the obvious storyline ahead of Tuesday’s matchup with the Colorado Avalanche. The Wild were absolutely crushed in their past two games in Colorado, losing 7-2 and 7-1 this winter.

For the mathematicians out there, the Wild have been outscored 14-3 in two games. That’s less than ideal.

The Wild are back home for a one-game set after a string of games against teams out of the playoff picture. That concept changes starting with the game against Colorado. The Wild (39-23-7) still sit in third place with 85 points, three above the first-wild-card Dallas Stars. Colorado (36-24-8) sits with 80 points.

The Avalanche, playing game No. 69 on Tuesday, have bumped themselves into the second wild card spot in the Western Conference. This contest with the Wild marks the fourth and final regular-season meeting between the longtime rivals. The Wild’s lone victory was a 3-2 shootout win on Black Friday at Xcel Energy Center.

The Wild are coming off a 4-1 loss in Edmonton but are 7-3-0 in their past 10 games. They’re 27-16-5 all-time against Colorado in St. Paul and have won seven of nine against them at home. The Wild are tied for first in the league with their 54 home points this season, going 24-5-6 at Xcel Energy Center.

Avalanche standout Nathan MacKinnon has destroyed the Wild in the first three games, tallying eight points (3-5—8). Colorado’s Mikko, Mikko Rantanen, has seven points against Mikko Koivu and the Wild this season. They’re the team scoring leaders with MacKinnon’s 32 goals and 81 points, plus Rantanen’s 23 goals and 69 points.

Colorado’s road power play and penalty kill both rank 26th in the NHL. They’ve allowed 12 shorthanded goals, a league worst.

Center Eric Staal actually didn’t score a goal in the last game, which is different. He has 37 goals and 31 assists for 68 points in 69 games this season. He’s closing in on the 40-goals mark, and that would hit a couple notable marks. He’d join Gordie Howe as the only players to put up 40-goal seasons at least nine seasons apart (with none in between) in NHL history. Howe scored 44 goals in 1956-57 and then 44 goals in 1968-69. Staal scored 40 goals in 2008-09.

Charlie Coyle is at the top of the scoring mountain lately with a three-game point streak and a goal in each of the past two games. He has 10 goals and 21 assists this season.

Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon has seven points in his past eight games. He’s one point away from tying his career-high in points for a season with 38. He also has 28 assists in 59 games this season, tying his career-high for a season.

Expect to see Devan Dubnyk and Semyon Varlamov in the nets for Minnesota and Colorado. Dubnyk has another shot at getting career victory No. 200 (129 wins with the Wild). He’s 30-13-5 with a .917 save percentage this season and got tagged with both blowout losses in Colorado. Dubnyk holds a 16-10-1 record with four shutouts in 29 starts when facing the Avalanche. Varlamov is 18-13-6 this season.

In birthday news, Koivu celebrated the big 35 on Monday. He leads the Wild with 45 points in 66 career games against the Avalanche.

Injury list:

  • Nick Seeler (right biceps strain), 3 games
  • Luke Kunin (ACL tear in left knee), out for the season, 3 games

Total man games lost: 117

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