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Colorado Avalanche Game Day: Right back at it against the Wild

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Colorado looks to make it four straight on the road this month

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Colorado Avalanche Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

With both teams playing in different cities last night, the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild will face off this evening in a game that will have a big impact on the Central Division playoff picture.

After beating the Wild in the second game of the season, the Avalanche have dropped their last two straight to their division rival. The Wild are on the outside looking it when it comes to the Western Conference playoffs but they are only three points out of the first Wild Card position so they will be looking for a big two points at home.


Colorado Avalanche

The Avs wrap up a five-game roadie tonight in Minnesota after a come-from-behind win over Columbus last night. It was a slower back-and-forth game for the Avalanche yesterday evening before Blue Jackets defenseman Seth Jones broke open the scoring at the halfway mark of the game on the power play. The Avs haven’t given up too many power-play opportunities to opponents recently. The Avs penalty kill has been solid since a 4-0 win against the San Jose Sharks on Jan. 16. Colorado owns the seventh-ranked penalty kill in the league in that span, while allowing the third-fewest goals in the NHL.

The Avs came from behind in the third period and scored two goals in the span of four minutes to top Columbus 2-1. Nazem Kadri tied the game with his fourth goal and seventh point in his last five games. Nathan MacKinnon scored the game winner shortly after, shedding the monkey off his back by scoring his first goal since before the All-Star break on Jan. 20.

Projected Forward Lines
Gabriel Landeskog - Nathan MacKinnon - Mikko Rantanen
Valeri Nichushkin - Nazem Kadri - Andre Burakovsky
Matt Calvert - Pierre-Eduoard Bellemare - J.T. Compher
Joonas Donskoi - Tyson Jost - Matt Nieto

Defense Pairings
Ryan Graves - Cale Makar
Samuel Girard - Erik Johnson
Ian Cole - Nikita Zadorov


Minnesota Wild

The Wild are not having their best year, which is a very welcomed sight for Avs fans, who have developed a hatred toward their divisional foe. As of late, however, Minnesota is 6-2 in their last eight contests and have bested the too-close-for-comfort Dallas Stars twice in that span, once in a 7-0 thrashing and most recently on a last-minute third-period goal to take a 3-2 win on Friday night.

The Wild really aren’t that too far off from a playoff position. Minnesota is just three points shy of the second wild card spot and four points short of wild-card leading Calgary. Also of note, the Wild have one of the best records at home this season at 16-7-4. That’s tied with Colorado for the third-fewest regulation losses in the Western Conference.

Projected Forward Lines
Zach Parise - Eric Staal - Mats Zuccarello
Jason Zucker - Luke Kunin - Kevin Fiala
Marcus Foligno - Joel Eriksson Ek - Jordan Greenway
Ryan Donato - Mikko Koivu - Ryan Hartman

Defense Pairings
Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin - Matt Dumba
Brad Hunt - Greg Pateryn


Goalies

After receiving some harsh criticism from Avs pundits and fans, Philipp Grubauer has been playing on another level as of late. Grubauer has allowed just one goal in his past three games, posting a 1.00 goals-against average and a .963 save percentage. Despite his solid streak, Grubauer earns himself a night of rest on the second game of a back to back.

Colorado backup Pavel Francouz will get his first game action since before the All-Star break on Jan. 20. Frankie is 12-4-2 this season, with a .924 save percentage — good for fifth in the league (tied) — while posting a 2.45 GAA, 10th-best among goalies.

For Minnesota, they’ll likely roll with Devan Dubnyk, who did a solid job for the Avs by keeping the Dallas Stars at bay on Friday, kicking aside 31 saves for a .939 save percentage against the Stars. Overall, however, Dubnyk has not been having his best year. He’s 10-13-2 with a sub-average .892 Sv% and 3.34 GAA.