Game Preview: Colorado Avalanche at Minnesota Wild


In the days approaching today’s Colorado Avalanche at Minnesota Wild game, there has been plenty of buzz around the rematch of the two clubs.  It has less to do with the fact the Minnesota Wild won 3-1 on March 2nd as it does the ugly incident at the end of that game.  Colorado Avalanche forward Cody McLeod ran Minnesota’s Mikael Granlund right after a faceoff which turned into a fight between McLeod and the Wild’s Charlie Coyle.  

It also boiled over near the benches as Wild captain Mikko Koivu verbally sparred with Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog until Landeskog threw a punch from his own bench garnering him a 10-minute game misconduct.  McLeod was given 2 minute minor for unsportsmanlike conduct, a 5-minute major for fighting and a 10-minute game misconduct.  Many in Minnesota expected suspensions to follow only to be disappointed when the league only doled out fines to Landeskog and McLeod.  You can read the Minneapolis Star Tribune‘s Michael Russo‘s account here.

"“That’s garbage is what it is.” ~ Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo describing to reporters what he thought of the Avalanche’s late-game antics"

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Avalanche Head Coach Patrick Roy received nothing at all, even though many felt the fact he sent out his enforcer for a faceoff with less than 5 seconds to play to go after a non-fighter in the much smaller Granlund made him responsible.  Obviously the league felt otherwise, and perhaps the league’s own rules are to blame.

"“I didn’t know what was called, but it’s got to be (an instigator), that guy’s out there with how many seconds left?  Have to know that’s coming.” ~ Wild forward Charlie Coyle"

Because McLeod was given an unsportsmanlike conduct minor instead of an instigator penalty it spared Roy not only from a fine but also prevented McLeod from receiving an automatic 1-game suspension.  So with no real serious action taken by the NHL, many fans are expecting fireworks when the teams come together this evening.

But should they?  Its my experience that often when two clubs expect plenty of ugliness on the ice then they end up with a fairly clean game because officials are extra vigilant.  So if anyone is expecting Chris Stewart to start teeing off on Landeskog and McLeod right from the start of the game you might wind up very disappointed.  Patrick Roy is a very calculated coach especially in regards to his comments to the media and I think most of what he says is grandstanding and said more for effect.  As a former Avalanche player, even though the Steve Moore incident happened after he retired he certainly would be wise to avoid making any veiled threats through comments to the media.

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  • The Colorado Avalanche got some tough news on Friday when news spread that young star Nathan MacKinnon is out 6-8 weeks with a broken foot as reported by the Denver Post.  Some Avalanche fans believe that MacKinnon’s injury may be a blessing in disguise as Mile High Sticking writes.  Maybe they’re feeling like that team from a season ago that asked “Why not Us?” as they rolled to a 4-0 victory on Saturday night over the Columbus Blue Jackets on the strength of 44 saves by Semyon Varlamov.

    Colorado will probably try to be physical early on, hoping to either intimidate or goad the Wild into foolish retaliatory penalties.  I have nothing against a Wild player defending himself or a mismatched teammate but if its just chirping and facewashing after a whistle, Minnesota would be best served to ignore it and let the scoreboard do the talking.  Minnesota must be patient and work pucks deep and get their cycling game going to try to wear Colorado out, especially since they played the night before.

    "“As far as we’re concerned, (last week’s game is) over, we’ll just try to play well against them again and frustrate them.  It’s not beneficial for us to get ourselves involved with any of that.” ~ Wild Alternate Captain Zach Parise"

    One player who has been on fire lately is Jason Pominville, since the Wild last played Colorado he has had 3 goals, 2 assists and 19 shots on goal in the last 4 games.  Perhaps a reason for this is the Wild are managing Pominville’s minutes better as he is averaging about 15:30 in ice time and that has probably allowed him to have more energy on his shifts, especially late in games.  Pominville has always been a somewhat streaky player but its tough to think of a better time for him to get in the zone.

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  • The other x-factor has been the solid play of the Wild’s 4th line of Kyle Brodziak, Erik Haula and Justin Fontaine.  Not only has the line been effective at shutting down the opposition’s top line but they’ve also been pesky offensively.  Thomas Vanek was out in the team’s last game against the Hurricanes and I suggested on Twitter that may be addition by subtraction.  The team swapped him out with Jordan Schroeder who brings considerably more speed and he had a terrific game.  I personally believe Schroeder fits better into the way the Wild want to play than Vanek, but I also know that if he’s healthy Schroeder will probably end up in the press box even if the former St. Thomas Academy star demonstrates far more chemistry with his linemates.

    I think its safe to say the Wild are going to go with Devan Dubnyk between the pipes, his franchise record-setting 23rd consecutive start.  Some felt the Wild missed a golden opportunity to give Dubnyk a rest against the Hurricanes but Mike Yeo seems determined to keep playing him.  Its tough to knock that decision too much especially as he continues to play well and most importantly, the team keeps winning (knock on wood).

    Minnesota Line Combinations:









    Colorado Line Combinations:









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