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Wild@Avalanche game 5 preview

Tonight the Minnesota Wild take the ice in Denver to play the Colorado Avalanche, looking to take a 3-2 series lead. Each team has won both of its games so far on home ice.

In St. Paul, the Wild have been able to effectively shut down whatever scoring lines the Avalanche have thrown their way, through a combination of Matt Cooke, Erik Haula, Justin Fontaine, and (taking Cooke’s place following his seven game suspension for kneeing) Nino Niederreiter on a checking line. In Colorado, however, the Avalanche will have last change, making it difficult for Wild head coach Mike Yeo to use a checking line to stifle the potent offensive performance exhibited by the trio of Paul Stastny, Nathan MacKinnon, and Gabriel Landeskog in game two. The three cumulatively put up 10 points, while the young superstar, MacKinnon, from Cole Harbour made Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon look very bad. The line was broken up in St. Paul, but may find itself back together tonight as Patrick Roy can put them out against whichever Wild line he pleases.

It remains to be seen whether Jared Spurgeon will play alongside fellow defenseman Ryan Suter or Marco Scandella. Notwithstanding, Ryan Suter will be logging bit minutes. Whoever is paired with him will be counted on to deliver a performance better than Spurgeon’s from the second game.

For Minnesota, it must win at least one road game to advance to the second round of the playoffs, as Colorado owns home ice advantage. So far in the Western Conference, the home team has gone 16-2. With the Avalanche star forward Matt Duchene not playing tonight, but taking regular line rushes in practice, according to Mike Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, it appears as though his return is not far away. That road win might be a lot more feasible tonight than in game seven, where Duchene could very well be back in the lineup. This is also operating under the assumption that the Wild can get a win at home in game six, which is quite a bold assumption.

Will the trend of Western Conference teams dominating on home ice continue, or will the Wild continue the commanding play on the road that they showed they are capable of on home ice?

The opinions posted here are not those of Hockey Wilderness

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