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Preview: Wild look to build on OT win vs. Avalanche

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They’ve got the momentum, but can they produce a win?

NHL: JAN 31 Avalanche at Wild

The Minnesota Wild and the Colorado Avalanche will both be testing their roster depth Tuesday night as they continue this four-game stretch.

For the Wild, forward Marcus Foligno is out on COVID protocol, while forward Marcus Johansson and Matt Dumba are both out with injuries with the latter being added to the injured reserve.

For the Avalanche, superstar Nathan MacKinnon is expected to be out for Tuesday’s game after he missed the third period of Sunday’s overtime win. The Avs are already playing without Erik Johnson — who took a massive hit from the Wild’s Jordan Greenway on Saturday — as well as Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Devon Toews, Matt Calvert and Pavel Francouz.

Coming into the third-game of this season’s series, the Wild have some winning momentum from Sunday night’s 4-3 OT win, but can it be replicated or will the Avs overpower them again?

Even with Colorado’s long list of absences, they proved their depth in a crushing win over the Wild to open the series - running away with a 5-1 win.

So, this is a Wild team that has something to prove now. Sure, the opening 5-3 record was nice, but that came from playing some subpar California teams - the Los Angeles Kings, the San Jose Sharks, and the Anaheim Ducks. The Colorado Avalanche are in a class of their own and this is shaping up to be the Wild’s first real test.

In the Western Division, the Wild have a shot to finish top three, right up there with the Avalanche, but they’re not there yet.

With Dumba, Fiala, Foligno, and Johansson out, Minnesota’s had to adopt a ‘next-man-up’ mentality, so who will that be Tuesday night?

Burning Questions

Can Kaprizov keep this offense going while Fiala is out?

Due to Fiala’s suspension, he’ll be out for Tuesday’s game. In his absence, the offensive push has fallen to rookie Kirill Kaprizov. In these past two games against the Avalanche, he effectively turned Victor Rask into an elite goal scorer and in the season so far, he’s been pretty good, I guess.

Still, he hasn’t contributed much other than an assist against the Wild. It’s time for Kaprizov to step up into that leadership position and put some pucks on the net. (It won’t hurt if the rest of the Wild start shooting the puck as well, just a thought.)

Can we keep penalties to a minimum? Please?

In the last three games, the Wild have provided their opponents with 17 power play opportunities, including seven penalties against the Avalanche on Saturday and seven more against the Kings last Thursday. While it’s fantastic that the penalty kill has been on top of it so far, let’s not test that too much.

Colorado is tied for seventh-best power play in the league, and they don’t need any extra help scoring.

Conversely, if the Wild could capitalize on their own power play, maybe this would be less of an issue, but we don’t have to get into that today.

Will we see the taxi squad produce?

Amid the injuries, three Iowa Wild taxi squad players were called up: Gerry Mayhew, Luke Johnson, and Kyle Rau. Last game, we saw Mayhew add one shot on goal and three hits, Johnson with another shot on goal and a hit, and Rau with three shots on goal and a hit.

This was their first game of any kind since last March when the Iowa Wild’s season was shut down to COVID.

Coach Dean Evason praised their play, saying “They finished checks right away. They were on top of the puck and we played everybody.” But could tonight be the night they add some goals and assists?

Puck drops at 7:30 p.m. CST. Next man up.