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