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Wild faceoff against Avs tonight in a Central Division showdown

NHL: Ottawa Senators at Colorado Avalanche Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Avalanche @ MINNESOTA WILD

7PM Central, Xcel Energy Center, St. Paul, Minnesota

TV: Fox Sports North, Fox Sports Wisconsin

Radio: KFAN 100.3 and affiliates

Streaming: Fox Sports Go, NHL.tv

Winners of their past 4 games, the Minnesota Wild look to push that streak to a solid work-week tonight against the Colorado Avalanche. This will be no easy test for the Wild, who despite being out-shot heavily in games or taking penalty after penalty while clinging to a lead, have managed to find ways to win games. With Colorado coming to town tonight, Devan Dubnyk will once again be counted on to stand on his head, the defensive core will need to a wall, and the Wild will have to find a way to muck things up on the forecheck and keep a fast skating Avalanche squad from piecing together any kind of rhythm.

The Wild opened the season with a 4-1 loss against the Avs. It wasn’t pretty the first time these two squads faced off, the Avalanche were skating circles around a Wild squad that looked like they were still shaking the dust off. Since then, the Wild have just one regulation loss in a stretch that hasn’t always been solid, but it tends to work out. They have won their last 4 games.

Colorado Avalanche

The Avalanche are leading the league in goals for with 39 and have surrendered just 24 in their first 11 games on the season. The top line for the Avalanche have 53 combined points. Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen are lighting up the league right now and the Wild will be fortunate to have last change tonight when trying to contain these guys. Rantanen leads the league in points (20) and assists (15) while MacKinnon’s 18 points off 9 goals and 9 assists and Landeskog also pocketing 9 goals this young season these guys will be tough to stop.

It’s one thing to have the best line in the NHL, but to back that up with Semyon Varlamov and his league leading Sv% of .953 with a 1.56 GAA (3rd in NHL) makes playing against the Avalanche an extremely difficult test for any team. They boast a record of 7-2-2 giving them 16 points and a share of the lead in the Central Division with the Nashville Predators.

The Avalanche were in action last night against the Ottawa Senators and made easy work of the Sens with a 6-3 victory. The top line combined for 10 points with each player getting a goal. Tyson Barrie marked 3 assists in the game and has been a threat early but he still is searching for his 1st goal this season. Past the top line this team is still dangerous. Carl Soderberg has 4 goals this season, scoring one of those on the power play for the Avalanche last night. Colin Wilson and J.T. Compher both have 3 goals this season as well.

Storyline

For both teams tonight’s game pivots on the performance of that top line for the Colorado Avalanche. The Wild have been pretty sound defensively and Ryan Suter is definitely playing a lot better now than when these two teams tango’d before. The Avalanche are coming here after a big come from behind win at home last night and with the Wild having 4 nights off it will be interesting to see how much gas the Avs will have in the tank.

Look for Colorado to come out fast tonight, and the Wild may have a little rust to shake off early. Varly got Friday night off and will be starting for the Avs tonight. The Wild will need to get him moving between the pipes to expose some targets for their shooters. For the Wild, weathering the storm early will be important and having last change before a faceoff will be a nice luxury for Bruce Boudreau.

Projected line combinations

Colorado Avalanche

Minnesota Wild

All line combinations courtesy of Daily Faceoff