It’s a matinee road matchup in the middle of January. Just No. 35 in the midst of an 82-game schedule.
But it seems like it could be much more for the Minnesota Wild.
Monday afternoon is a chance for the Wild to send a message to an Avalanche team that many believe not only will win the Central Division but also are among the Stanley Cup favorites this season. Colorado opened the year. In fact, the Avalanche had the best odds to win the title on WynnBet to open the season at +550. Minnesota opened tied for seventh-best with Washington at +1500.
After some early adversity — including some due to COVID-19 issues — the Avs have found their stride recently.
The Avs, who beat the Wild 4-1 on Oct. 30 in Denver, have been on a tear since the start of December. Colorado has won 12 of its past 14 games — with the only two losses coming against Nashville — and are tied with the Predators atop the Central Division with 51 points.
Colorado also is second in the NHL in goals with 150, seven fewer than the Florida Panthers. The Avs are also averaging 4.28 goals per game Colorado has scored 78 goals since the start of December, which leads the league in that span.
“They’re the hottest team in the league right now ,” Wild forward Marcus Foligno said during a post-practice media session on Sunday. “They have that core (of players) who have together for awhile now and always seem to produce. “We’ve just got to come out with more intensity, play them hard and make it feel like a playoff game. We want to go in there and take two points.
“It’s a divisional game and we’re rivals,” Foligno said. “We’ve liked our game so far (this season) and we think we can go in there and play heavier and a lot smarter and do some damage.”
The Wild are just five points behind the Avs and Predators but have played fewer games than both teams. Minnesota, which is 25-27-6 all-time in Denver, has won its past three games despite an ever-chaning lineup due to injuries and the COVID-19 protocol.. And the Wild will still be without regulars Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Joel Eriksson Ek, Nick Bjugstad and Cam Talbot.
“We don’t look at it as an excuse,” Foligno said. “We have a lot of guys now back. I know we’re still down (a number of players) but it’s just one of those things where we have a lot of good pieces in the lineup, and the guys who have stepped in have played great. We’ve just got to rely on each other to get the job done.”
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The Wild vs. Avs odds on WynnBET has the Avs favored by 1.5 goals at home. The Avalanche are also the favorite on the moneyline at -230. Minnesota is the underdog at +195. The over/under has the projected total goals at 6.5
Upcoming Wild schedule
Friday, Jan. 21: @Chicago, 7:30 p.m. CST
Saturday, Jan 22: Chicago, 8 p.m., CST
Monday, Jan. 24: Montreal, 7 p.m. CST