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Game Day Preview: First leg of back-to-back with Minnesota

Colorado will look to improve to a 2-1 record on the preseason Saturday night

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Minnesota Wild Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

So far, the Avalanche have managed to put up one strong showing (and one dismal effort) in their preseason run.

They’ll get a chance to take home their second win of the preseason Saturday evening, though, when they open up a two-game home and away series against the Minnesota Wild on the road in St. Paul.

Puck drop is at 5:00 PM Central Time on FSN, and should be available on NHL.tv to watch in its entirety live.

The Avalanche looked excellent in their 5-1 win over the Dallas Stars earlier this week, making clear strides to improve upon a 4-1 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights to kick things off.

They’ll look to ride that Dallas win to another victory on Saturday, this time facing against one of the Central Division’s regular season powerhouses.

AVALANCHE PREVIEW

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Minnesota Wild Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

At the moment, the Avalanche haven’t released their lines for the upcoming game, but there are a few things to watch out for:

The team was dealt a significant blow during their tilt against Dallas when blue liner Sergei Boikov was injured in a collision with one of the Stars skaters, leaving him with a dislocated shoulder and no immediate timetable for return.

While that’s a hit to their prospect lineup, though, expect Tyson Barrie to skate out against the Wild on either Saturday or Sunday, as both he and Tyson Jost are expected to make at least one appearance during the home-and-away series.

Combined with the confirmation that Jonathan Bernier will get a chance to flex his summer skills on Saturday, and that makes for an intriguing chance to see whether or not the Avalanche have taken any strides this summer. While they managed a strong win over the Stars, that game boasted far fewer NHL players on the Dallas roster than the Avs’; they’ll need to prove that they can hold their own against something closer to resembling a regular season lineup in order to inspire more confidence.

WILD PREVIEW

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Heading into their third preseason tilt, Minnesota stands undefeated.

That’s going to be tough for Colorado, but it’s promising for the Wild - especially since the majority of their NHL-calibre players have yet to make their preseason debuts.

That will change on Saturday, though. Per The Athletic Minnesota’s Brian Hall:

“Center Mikko Koivu, who signed a two-year extension this week, will make his 2017 debut, as will Staal, center Mikael Granlund, defenseman Ryan Suter and goaltender Devan Dubnyk.

Staal is expected to center Niederreiter and Tyler Ennis. Koivu will be between Jason Zucker and Granlund.”

Keep an eye out to see what the line of Staal-Niederreiter-Ennis can do. Two of the three are relative newcomers to the team, with Ennis arriving in Minnesota just this summer. He’s fast, but injury-prone and never quite hit his believed ceiling while in Buffalo; if he can click with the other two (particularly El Niño), that could be a deadly line.

With Devan Dubnyk in net for Minnesota, it’s a battle of the fallen Edmonton Oilers starter - who managed to put the ‘star’ in ‘starter’ when he finally made his way to Minnesota just a few years ago - and the fallen Toronto Maple Leafs mainstay, who has yet to discover his own renaissance.

The one player you won’t see for Minnesota, though, is Zach Parise. After suffering a herniated disc last year, he’s back on the ice practicing this weekend, but isn’t quite ready for game action just yet.