In what might be the team’s biggest game in two years, the Colorado Avalanche host the Minnesota Wild tonight in a huge Central Division matchup. Both teams are coming into this one playing well. The Avalanche are riding a four-game winning streak while the Wild have won four of their last five games.
Beyond the implications on the standings, this game is big for another reason as the Avalanche will raise #23 to the rafters to honor the great Milan Hejduk. The former captain will have his number retired, joining Joe Sakic, Patrick Roy, Peter Forsberg, Adam Foote and Ray Bourque.
If you take out the guys that played in Quebec, Hejduk has more goals, assists, games played and points than anyone in franchise history that exclusively wore an Avalanche jersey.
He was an all-star, a Rocket Richard Trophy winner, a captain and a lifelong Av. Hejduk is one of the best to ever wear the jersey and he is more than worthy of this incredible honor.
Milan Hejduk Career Statistics
The Avalanche come into this game riding high. With a four-game winning streak under their belt, they will look to go make it five before going into the bye week.
Jonathan Bernier was outstanding Thursday night, shutting out the Columbus Blue Jackets. Bernier will look to keep that rolling tonight as Semyon Varlamov continues to nurse his lower body injury.
The top line continues to roll, last game it was Mikko Rantanen’s turn to carry the load. A goal and assist puts him up to 38 points on the season. He has been outstanding all season and is blossoming into the perfect long-term running mate for Nathan MacKinnon.
On the flip side, youngster Samuel Girard has taken a bit of a step back recently. For the second straight game, he and Anton Lindholm were dominated at 5v5. The coaching staff is going to have to re-think that pairing.
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
A.J. Greer - Alex Kerfoot - Nail Yakupov
Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Blake Comeau
Colin Wilson - Tyson Jost - Gabriel Bourque
Nikita Zadorov - Erik Johnson
Samuel Girard - Anton Lindholm
Patrik Nemeth - Mark Barberio
The Wild enter the game having won two straight and 3 of their last four games. They are a few games above .500, but have a pretty bad 8-12-1 record on the road.
Eric Staal is continuing to be great during this second chapter of his career. He leads the Wild with 35 points and continues to be the heartbeat of the team’s offense.
Zach Parise is back in the lineup after missing the first 39 games of the season recovering from a back injury. He is being eased back into the lineup playing in the bottom-6 and averaging around 15 minutes in his first two games.
With that said, he’s not playing on a typical 3rd line. Parise, Charlie Coyle and Joel Eriksson Ek are a heck of a combination and can be lethal offensively. The Avs are going to have a hard time matching up with the depth of the Wild.
Jason Zucker - Eric Staal - Tyler Ennis
Nino Niederreiter - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund
Joel Eriksson Ek - Charlie Coyle - Zach Parise
Marcus Foligno - Matt Cullen - Daniel Winnik
Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin - Mathew Dumba
Gustav Olofsson - Nate Prosser
Jonathan Bernier will hope to remain hot in the Avs net as he looks to improve on his 8-7-1 record and .906 sv%. He was outstanding Thursday night and has proven to be at his best when Varly is out of the lineup with an injury.
Across the ice, the Avs will have to deal with Devan Dubnyk. The Wild goaltender is still one of the best in the league putting up a .920 sv% in 25 starts this season.
How to Watch/Listen
As always, the game can be seen on Altitude Sports and Altitude Sports Radio 905AM at 7pm MST.