Tonight, the Colorado Avalanche will face the Minnesota Wild for the third time this season. The two teams have split the season series up until this point; the Avalanche winning 7-2 on January 6 at home, the Wild topping the Avs 3-2 in a shootout on November 24 in Minnesota.
Despite the Wild being six points ahead of the Avs in the standings, the Avalanche have played them well this year, especially at home. A win tonight would propel Colorado over both St. Louis and Anaheim — whom the Avs have games in hand on both — and into the second wildcard spot in the West.
The Avalanche are coming into March having finished a road-heavy February with two big wins over Canadian teams at home. The Avalanche are an incredible 12-1-0 at home in their last 13 games with Nathan MacKinnon posting the best points per game in the league at home, 51 points in 29 games.
Tyson Barrie has been the second leading scorer for Colorado behind MacKinnon in the six games since the star center returned from injury. Barrie has been huge for the Avs with Erik Erik Johnson out long-term due to injury. He has been playing an average of 26:06 and has eight points in the same time frame.
Coach Jared Bednar noted yesterday in practice that defenseman Anton Lindholm will return to the Colorado Avalanche lineup after completing a full practice on Thursday. Lindholm will most likely skate on the teams’ third pairing with Duncan Siemens, keeping the top four intact.
Aside from Lindholm’s return to the lineup from injury, the Avs are going with the same lineup as they used against Calgary. Right-handed defenseman Mark Alt will remain in the pressbox since being acquired from Philadelphia on Deadline Day.
As With Lindholm moves out of the practice only group and into the lineup, Jonathan Bernier moves in with recent regular non-contact practicers Sven Andrighetto and Vladislav Kamenev. Good news all around!
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Tyson Jost - Alexander Kerfoot - Colin Wilson
Matt Nieto - Carl Soderberg - Blake Comeau
J.T. Compher - Dominic Toninato - Gabriel Bourque
Nikita Zadorov - Tyson Barrie
Samuel Girard - Patrik Nemeth
Duncan Siemens - Anton Lindholm
Eric Staal and MHH have been two parts of a little bit of drama surrounding the NHL this week. Elliotte Friedman cheekily noted Staal as one of two Hart Trophy finalists along with Taylor Hall, who he wrote has been having a banger of a season earlier in the piece. Our site manager Tom Hunter tweeted Elliotte saying he missed MacKinnon in his calculations and got a reaction from the league’s top insider.
To Staal’s credit, he has been having a great season as well. Rejuvenated again in USA’s Canada, Staal (33-31--64) has led the Wild all season, and capped off an especially incredible February with First Star of the Month honors by the league.
Jason Zucker - Eric Staal - Mikael Granlund
Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Charlie Coyle
Nino Niederreiter - Joel Eriksson Ek - Daniel Winnik
Marcus Foligno - Matt Cullen - Tyler Ennis
Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin - Matt Dumba
Nick Seeler - Nate Prosser
Semyon Varlamov has been great at home this season, sporting a .933 save percentage in 18 games, behind only St. Louis’ Carter Hutton for best in the league. With Bernier returning to practice after suffering a concussion on February 16 against Winnipeg it will be interesting whether the coaching staff stick with Varlamov or go back to Bernier.
Since joining the Wild in 2014-15, Devan Dubnyk has been one of the most consistant goaltenders in the league, posting a save percantage between .918 and .923 every year. This season, Dubnyk is three percentage points below his .922 save percentage since his resurgence in Minnesota.