After sweeping a four game homestand, the Colorado Avalanche take their winning streakto the road and face off against the Northwest Division-leading Minnesota Wild, the biggest surprise in the NHL this season. This is a fascinating game in many ways for a Colorado team that looks to finally be putting their season back on track.
Consider the following facts:
- Colorado has not won a road game this year since a shootout win over the Chicago Blackhawks since October 22, a span of over two months.
- The Avalanche are a dreadful 1-9 within the Northwest Division this season, and have lost the only game they played against the Wild this year.
- Colorado has 46 regular season games remaining -- 26 of these games are road affairs.
Despite these numbers, there is plenty of hope for the NHL playoffs to return to Denver this upcoming spring. The recent homestand sweep pushed the Avalanche firmly into the Western Conference playoff discussion only three points from a playoff spot. Furthermore, a recent statistical evaluation by Predators' blog On The Forecheck shows that Colorado has the second-easiest remaining schedule in the NHL. Other teams -- like the Phoenix Coyotes, Calgary Flames, and Nashville Predators -- that are also competing for those playoff spots face significantly more difficult competition for the remainder of the season.
The weak schedule they predict for Colorado includes five games against the Wild. Most experts suggested their season's pace to this point was a sign that Minnesota was playing over their talent level, and that regression may be coming. It may have already started. Entering tonight's contest, the Wild are 0-4-2 in their previous six contests despite receiving quality goaltending from their tandem of Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding. The Wild offense has scored one or fewer goals in five of those six games, a troubling sign for a team that lacks top offensive firepower.
Colorado turns to Semyon Varlamov in net against the Wild. The Russian goaltender missed some time last week resting a sore back, allowing Jean-Sebastien Giguere to put up four straight victories and continue his impressive rebound campaign.
Puck drops at 4:00 p.m. MDT.
For more coverage, visit our Avalanche blog Mile High Hockey and our Wild blog Hockey Wilderness.