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Game 19: Avalanche At Wild, Preview And Open Thread

Both the Avalanche and the Wild head into tonight's game with their collective tails between their legs.  The Avs played their worst game of the season on Friday, getting crushed by the Stars 6-1, suffering no injuries but to Jose Theodore's already battered reputation among Colorado fans.  The Wild didn't get off so easily, losing yet another top scorer to injury.  This time Mikko Koivu, the Avalanche Killer, went down after being slashed across the leg during Friday's game against Vancouver, which Minnesota lost 6-2.  Also still out for the Wild is Pavol Demitra, he of the glass groin.

While the Avalanche are suffering injuries of their own, the worst being the sprained knee of team motivator and enforcer Ian Laperriere, the real wounds appear to be among the top "scoring" lines, which continue to struggle scoring consistently, if at all.  There's no question now that Joe Sakic is being overworked on the power play (in a point role that doesn't suit his talents) and his even-strength play is weaker for it.  Ryan Smyth is playing hard in the slot but passes and rebounds are not reaching him.  Paul Stastny sucks horrendously on the road, and his linemates Milan Hejduk and Wojtek Wolski aren't exactly tearing up foreign ice, either.

I won't waste time talking about the Avalanche defense, which flirts with greatness only half as much as it collapses completely.

Thankfully, Peter Budaj will be returning to his rightful place in net, after relieving Theo on Friday and stopping 10 of 11 shots through a period and a half.  Boots has been 4-1-0 in his last five games and 2-1-0 (2.01 GAA) against the Wild this season.  

Minnesota is just one point behind the Avalanche in the Northwest standings, and as divisional play continues until the end of the month, this game is critical to both teams, if for no other reason than just to restore their confidence.  The Avalanche also must overcome their terrible road record.

The game starts this afternoon at 4:00 PM Mountain time, 6:00 PM Eastern.  It's Sunday, so I'll be home and blogging away.  A couple of you kept the thread on Friday going despite the carnage.  I hope we have a better time today, and the ScarJo pictures come out in celebration rather than in consolation.

ESPN preview.