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Colorado Avalanche Game Day: A Wild-ly familiar foe

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Colorado welcomes in rival Minnesota for a two-game set as the teams battle it out for second place in the West Division.

NHL: JAN 31 Avalanche at Wild

Colorado Avalanche: 17-8-2
Minnesota Wild: 18-8-1
Puck Drop: 7:00 p.m. MT
Watch: Altitude, FS-N,
Listen: Altitude 92.5, AM 950

The Colorado Avalanche will look to extend their longest winning streak of the season to five games as they host the Minnesota Wild at Ball Arena. This contest is perhaps one of the most highly anticipated in several weeks as both squads are sporting a 7-2-1 record in their last ten games and are jockeying for positioning in a tighter-than-expected Honda West Division; Colorado currently sits in third place with 36 points behind none other than Minnesota with 37 points.

Colorado Avalanche

The Avs are coming off of a wild win on Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks — a game that saw the home team take the lead just 61 seconds in, fall behind 4-2 on only 7 shots against in the first period, and then score six unanswered to earn an 8-4 victory when it was all said and done. The Avs will need to be more sound defensively and be settled right from puck drop tonight as they welcome in a higher caliber opponent.

The Avs’ backup goaltending situation has been a hot topic lately — especially after Tuesday’s game when Hunter Miska allowed four goals on seven shots and was pulled from the net in favor of Philipp Grubauer after the first period. Grubauer stopped all 15 shots he faced in relief, which is great, but his durability might come into question as the season winds down into its latter stages. Lots have to wonder what Joe Sakic might do to tackle a goaltending dilemma that was left unaddressed prior to the start of the season — a decision that now seems like a poor one in hindsight. With all that said, however, in his Wednesday press conference, coach Jared Bednar provided a candid and fair assessment of the young netminder when asked about Miska’s performance the night before.

The Avs second line has been absolutely dominant in recent games - the chemistry that has developed between wingers Andre Burakovsky and Brandon Saad as well as center Nazem Kadri is truly something to behold. The line has combined for 15 points over the last four games (seven goals, eight assists) and has easily been the team’s most productive line. This is a welcomed addition as the top line, while still dominant in almost every facet, has not been able to translate that dominance to the score sheet. This secondary scoring has proved immensely valuable lately and the offensive dominance that this team is so familiar with is beginning to re-emerge.

The team finally got some good news on the injury front as both Cale Makar and Bo Byram will be back in the lineup tonight. JT Compher has been medically cleared as well but he is going to sit out another game before working his way back into the lineup.

This is the healthiest the team has been in a a long while.

Projected Lines

Forwards

Gabriel Landeskog – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen
Andre Burakovsky – Nazem Kadri – Brandon Saad
Valeri Nichushkin – Tyson Jost – Joonas Donskoi
Matt Calvert – Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – Logan O’Connor

Defense

Devon Toews – Cale Makar
Jacob MacDonald – Samuel Girard
Bowen Byram – Ryan Graves

Goaltenders

Philipp Grubauer - Starter
Hunter Miska

Minnesota Wild

Minnesota is coming off of a 3-0 victory against the Arizona Coyotes and is riding a five game win streak of their own coming into this contest. Minnesota has always been a thorn in the side of the Avalanche and a surprisingly competitive season to-date for this Wild squad should leave Avs fans frothing at the mouth in anticipation of this matchup.

Expect a slight change to the Minnesota lineup for this contest as defenseman Carson Soucy was assessed a one game suspension by the Department of Player Safety for charging Coyotes forward Conor Garland on Tuesday night. Expect one of either Brad Hunt or Dakota Mermis to play alongside Ian Cole on Minnesota’s third pairing.

Projected Lines

Forwards

Kirill Kaprizov – Victor Rask – Mats Zuccarello
Jordan Greenway – Ryan Hartman – Kevin Fiala
Zach Parise – Joel Eriksson-Ek – Nick Bjugstad
Nico Sturm – Nick Bonino – Luke Johnson

Defense

Ryan Suter – Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin – Matt Dumba
Brad Hunt/Dakota Mermis – Ian Cole

Goaltenders

Kappo Kahkonen
Cam Talbot - Starter