The Minnesota Wild take on the Colorado Avalanche tonight at the Xcel Energy Center. This is the second of five meetings between the teams this season. The Wild took the first meeting on opening night by a score of 4-2, behind a pair of goals by Dany Heatley. The Avalanche have struggled as much as the Wild on the road this season. The Avs are 1-4-0 to the Wild’s 1-4-1. That would lead one to think Minnesota has an edge coming into tonight’s game. The problem for the Wild is goals–the lack of them, specifically. Over the last 6 games, Minnesota has totaled six goals in regulation. They have gone 2-4-0 in that stretch, winning one game in OT and one in a shootout.
The Wild offense is going to start putting in goals in bunches the way they have been generating chances of late. After their 2-1 loss to the Canucks on Tuesday Head Coach Mike Yeo said about the team’s lack of goals, “It’s gonna come, I know that. If we keep playing like that, it’ll come.”
Colorado comes in off a four game home stand in which they went 1-2-1, scoring five goals in those four games. The “Avs” are missing six players due to injury or illness, including Captain Gabriel Landeskog, who is on IR with a head/neck issue. The Wild have been fortunate on the injury front this year, with only Jared Spurgeon missing significant time so far. He returned to the line up last game, skating with Justin Falk in a pairing Coach Yeo termed the “Twin Towers”. Josh Harding is on day-to-day status after reporting feeling “off” due to his MS medications. He did not skate in practice today.
The forward lines for the Wild will look different one again tonight. Rookie Charlie Coyle has been sent back to the Houston Aeros, along with Matt Kassian, who cleared waivers this morning. Coyle will play three games with the Aeros this weekend alone. He WILL be back up with Minnesota sooner rather than later. You can’t expect Bouchard to be a healthy scratch for multiple games. He has had a slow start to the season, but like the entire offense, he is due to break out soon. The Wild scored four against the Avs on opening night–the most they have scored all season. Hopefully, they return to that for tonight. The top line of Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Dany Heatley has been reunited. At practice this morning, Kyle Brodziak was playing with Mikael Granlund and Devin Setoguchi. The third line appears to be Matt Cullen, centering Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Cal Clutterbuck. That leaves the fourth line grouping of Mike Rupp, Zenon Konopka, and Torrey Mitchell.
Look for Niklas Backstrom to get the start in net. He is 5-4-1 on the year, with a goals against of 2.35 and a .935 save percentage. Colorado will counter with Semyon Varlamov, who is 3-6-1 with a goals against of 2.58 and a .909 save percentage. Defensive pairings will remain the same for this evening, with Ryan Suter paired with Jonas Brodin, Spurgeon with Falk, and Tom Gilbert skating with Clayton Stoner. Nate Prosser will be the healthy scratch.
This should be an entertaining battle tonight. A special ceremonial puck drop is scheduled, with Andrew Brunette doing the honors. On Wednesday, “Bruno” announced his retirement as a player and accepted a position as a Hockey Operations Advisor with the Wild. He is one of the most beloved Minnesota players of all time. Puck drop is 7pm on this Valentine’s Day, and a sell-out crowd is expected. Let’s GO Wild!!