NHL Preview from The Sports Network|
Saturday, January 11th
(All times Eastern)
Colorado Avalanche (27-12-5) at Minnesota Wild (24-17-5), 8 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Minnesota Wild look to stretch their winning streak
to a season-high five games in a row on Saturday night as they play host to
the Colorado Avalanche.
It has been a solid turnaround for the Wild over the past week as they had
lost six in a row before matching their longest winning streak of the campaign
first accomplished from Nov. 9-17. And it has come with goaltender Josh
Harding (illness) and forwards Mikko Koivu (ankle surgery) and Zach Parise
(lower body) out with injury.
Justin Fontaine was the latest player to step up as he notched his first
career hat trick in Thursday's 4-1 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes. He scored
twice in the third period after Kyle Brodziak broke a 1-1 tie with his fourth
goal of the campaign 3:21 into the final frame.
With 11 goals, Fontaine is now third on the Wild behind Jason Pominville (18)
and Parise (15).
"He's paid his dues and he's just done nothing but show up to the rink
everyday and doesn't take anything for granted," Minnesota head coach Mike Yeo
said of Fontaine.
Niklas Backstrom made 39 saves and both Nino Niederreiter and Matt Cooke
contributed two assists.
The Wild are set to visit the Nashville Predators on Sunday and may split the
starts between Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper. Backstrom has been excellent in
his career versus the Avalanche, going 24-5-3 with a 2.22 goals against
average and four shutouts in 32 games, while Kuemper has never faced them.
Colorado is hitting the road following a successful 4-1-2 homestand, though it
did drop a 2-1 overtime decision to the New York Islanders last night to
conclude the stay.
Nathan MacKinnon scored in the second period for the Avs and Semyon Varlamov
made 22 saves, yielding the game-tying goal 4:28 into the third period and the
winner 1:46 into overtime.
"I thought we played a good solid game tonight and deserved two points, not
one," said MacKinnon, who with 15 goals is tied with injured San Jose forward
Tomas Hertl for the most among rookies this season.
Avalanche forward Ryan O'Reilly missed a second straight game with a bruised
shoulder, while defenseman Nate Guenin sat out for third consecutive time with
an ankle injury.
Varlamov could be right back in net for Colorado tonight and is 5-4-1 with a
1.95 GAA in 10 games (9 starts) versus the Wild. He is 1-0-1 in two meetings
this season, giving up three goals on 64 shots.
The Avs are 2-0-1 versus the Wild this season, but have lost four of their
last six in Minnesota.
01/11 10:32:25 ET