The Colorado Avalanche will face off with the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center in the season's first meeting between these two potential playoff squads. The last time these two met was back in late April in a contest in which the Wild bested an Avalanche team that had all but packed it in to stay healthy heading into the playoffs. This year's Wild club hopes to be competitive for years, with lofty ambitions heading into the new season. How will they fair against the defending champion Colorado Avalanche?
The Avalanche will have a target on their back throughout the season now that they sit atop the throne of professional hockey. With that, they'd better get used to seeing every team's best performance night in and night out despite the standings or talent on a given team. What the Avalanche accomplished last season was incredibly difficult. Doing it again is going to prove even more challenging.
By all accounts, the rest of the teams in the Central Division have improved. Winning the division and securing home ice should be challenging for the Avalanche. Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, and St. Louis all seemingly have the potential to be in the hunt come playoff time. Achieving divisional supremacy will have to involve big road wins against formidable opponents. The Avs aim to start off on the right foot tonight.
Nathan MacKinnon vs Matt Dumba— Everything Hockey (@EHClothing) March 28, 2022
The lineup heading into tonight's contest isn't what we will see months from now, but it features some serious talent despite being short Gabriel Landeskog. The Avalanche captain did attend yesterday's practice but as a spectator. Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar mentioned being concerned about the lingering effects of his injury. I'd be surprised if he plays any October hockey.
Gabriel Landeskog (blue sweatshirt) taking on practice. pic.twitter.com/V3WRfc1vKY— Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) October 16, 2022
Artturi Lehkonen — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen
Evan Rodrigues — Alex Newhook — Valeri Nichushkin
Andrew Cogliano — JT Compher — Logan O'Connor
Kurtis MacDermid — Lukas Sedlak — Ben Meyers
Devon Toews — Cale Makar
Samuel Girard — Josh Manson
Bowen Byram — Erik Johnson
Note: Both Gabriel Landeskog and Darren Helm remain on injured reserve.
A story that is mixed into this resurging rivalry is the Tyson Jost story. He was traded at the deadline for Nico Sturm, who went on to hoist with the team he had been a part of for the entirety of his career beforehand. He will have the opportunity to exact a bit of revenge tonight, as it looks like he will be centering Minnesota's talented top line against his former club. He's spoken about how difficult it was to watch his friends achieve their ultimate dream while he watched at home. Some fans displayed deplorable behavior, making time even more difficult for Jost. I’d expect him to be flying around early and often.
Tyson Jost looks like he’ll get a shot on the first line against his former team. https://t.co/u3a2VH4mzu— Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) October 17, 2022
The Mile High Hockey Lab had Thomas Williams of hockeywilderness.com on to discuss the Wild's potential this season. Thomas sees them as a team that could surprise a few groups come playoff time and make a run, but doesn't necessarily see them as a top 5 team. They have some surging young talent beginning to show in Matt Boldy. The Wild drafted Boldy in 2019, who went on to become a Hobey Baker finalist in 2021. His impact on an already offensively talented club should make Minny even more dangerous.
Kirill Kaprisov — Tyson Jost — Mats Zuccarello
Marcus Foligno — Joel Eriksson Ek — Ryan Hartman
Frederick Gaudreau — Same Steel — Matthew Boldy
Mason Shaw — Connor Dewar — Brandon Duhaime
Jacob Middleton — Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin — Mathew Dumba
Alex Goligoski — Calen Addison
Note: Jordan Greenway is listed as out for tonight's contest and Mats Zuccarello left morning skate early. That could mean that Marco Rossi sees some action tonight.
Rossi may suddenly play tonight. Zuccarello left the skate early. Evason doesn’t have an update yet— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) October 17, 2022
It will be Alexander Georgiev in the blue paint for the Avalanche tonight. He will get his second season start and hopes to secure his second victory of the season. Georgiev looked good in the home opener against the Blackhawks but wasn't tested all that much. He should get used to the star-studded defensive group before him, lightening the load. Still, the Wild will undoubtedly pose a more significant scoring threat than the Blackhawks, who appear to be tanking intentionally.
The Wild will start veteran netminder Marc Andre Fleury this evening. Fleury looked a bit more human against the Avalanche while dawning a Blackhawks or Wild uniform than he did in Vegas. Whenever you play a goalie with the experience and ability of MAF, you have to be prepared to get his best performance. Hopefully, the Avalanche can get by him early and set the tone.