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  • 1/6 PREGAME: Minnesota Wild vs. Colorado Avalanche

    Heather Rule

    The second half of the schedule starts Saturday night for the Minnesota Wild.


    What better setting than the Pepsi Center to face one of their most feisty rivals in the Colorado Avalanche?


    They’ll face longtime rival Colorado on the road, in a matchup of teams with nearly identical records: 22-16-3 for the Wild with 47 points and 21-16-3 for the Avalanche with 45 points. They sit at fifth and sixth in the Central Division standings.


    The Wild beat the Avalanche 3-2 in a shootout earlier this season in St. Paul. The Wild are 14-42 at home this season (including an 11-1-1 mark since Nov. 14) but just 8-12-1 on the road. They’ve lost three straight road games, with their last road victory coming Dec. 19, a 6-4 win in Ottawa. Playing a complete, 60-minute game should be the mindset for the Wild, as they’ve sometimes let third periods get away from them this season.


    All-time, the Wild are 49-35-11 against Colorado, including a 22-19-6 mark at the Pepsi Center. The Wild have a run of four straight wins over the Avalanche, dating back to Dec. 20, 2016. The Wild are 12-3-1 in their last 16 meetings.


    Overall, the Wild have won four of their last five games.


    For the second game in a row – and just the second game this season – the Wild are expected to have a 100 percent healthy roster for the game. Chris Stewart and Mike Reilly are the projected healthy scratches for the game.


    Nino Niederreiter made his return to the lineup the other night, putting an exclamation mark on his first game back after missing five games with a hat trick in the 6-2 victory over Buffalo.


    Mikael Granlund had three helpers, setting a career high. Daniel Winnik, Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle also scored for the Wild.


    Against the Avalanche, Koivu leads the Wild with 44 points (16-28—44). Goaltender Devan Dubnyk has four shutouts in 27 starts with a 16-8-1 record in his career when facing Colorado.


    In the what-have-you-done-for-met-lately category, the Avalanche have won four games in a row, the latest being a 2-0 shutout victory over Columbus on Thursday night.


    Center Nathan MacKinnon still flexes his might as a solid NHL player. He leads the Avalanche with 49 points (17-32—49) in all 40 games this season. Mikko Rantanen follows him with 14 goals and 24 assists; seven of his goals have come on the power play, which leads the team in that category.


    Look for Dubnyk in goal for the Wild, while the Avalanche will likely start Jonathan Bernier in place of Semyon Varlamov who is day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Bernier is 8-7-1 this season, starting 15 games and has a 2.94 GAA and a .906 save percentage.


    On the Minnesota-connection list, defenseman Erik Johnson is a Bloomington native and played for the University of Minnesota.


    The Avalanche will retire the No. 23 before the game, honoring former player Milan Hejduk. He played 14 seasons in Colorado (1,020 games, 375 goals, 805 points) until his retirement in 2013.


    Be on the lookout for a few even-number milestones within the Wild’s roster. Elk River’s own Nate Prosser sits at 299 career points, Moorhead grad Matt Cullen has 699 career points, Matt Dumba has 99 career points and Niederreiter has 98 career goals plus 97 career assists.


    Additionally, Prosser will skate in his 300th NHL game. He has 42 points over nine seasons in the league.


    Last season, the Wild were 27-9-5 at the halfway mark of the season (22-16-3 this season) and went 22-16-3 in the second half on their way to another playoff berth.


    Injury list:

    No current injuries

    Total man games lost: 94



    Keep up with the Wild via Giles & The Goalie!

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