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Preview: Wild aim to add to homestand streak against Avalanche

In the second half of a back-to-back, Minnesota hosts the NHL’s best.

Minnesota Wild v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

Last night ended in another 3-2 performance from the Minnesota Wild, highlighted by Marc-Andre Fleury’s debut for the team and yet another clutch goal and an overtime game-winner. Today, Wild fans will get a complete look at how the new Talbot-Fleury goalie tandem will perform in a back-to-back.

The team’s last two two-night performances both ended in heartbreak, with losses on the backend to the Buffalo Sabres and Columbus Blue Jackets in early March. Both of those performances were one-goal affairs, with now-San Jose Sharks netminder Kappo Kahkonen in goal.

Having a refreshed Talbot in net might not be enough for the Wild, however, with the league-leading Colorado Avalanche in town. The Avalanche has two games and 15 points over the Wild, the largest point differential between any current first and second team’s across the divisions.

Colorado is going into this evening with a rest day in hand as well, most winning 6-3 over the Flyers on Friday.

The two most recently faced off in mid-January, a 3-4 loss for the Wild, but both franchises made moves at the deadline to change up their rosters, including the one-for-one Jost-Sturm trade.

Keep an eye on the Avalanche’s acquisitions, particularly former Montreal Canadiens forward Artturi Lehkonen and former Anaheim Ducks blueliner Josh Manson, two players adding defensively. While still a forward, Lehkonen is known for stats that don’t end up on the scoreboard, including low shot attempts and goals against at even strength.

Offensively, it’ll be the usual suspects from the Avalanche, with Nazem Kadri sitting at 79 points so far this season and Mikko Rantanen leading Colorado with 32 goals, on top of the consistent contributions from Makar and MacKinnon.

Captain and high scorer Gabriel Landeskog, however, is out after knee surgery earlier this month. Avalanche defensemen Samuel Girard and Bowen Byram also are out tonight.

Both Tyson Jost and Nico Sturm will play against their former teams for the first time tonight, while the trade is still fresh. This might not be the most emotional return for Sturm, although I’m sure the Wild will honor him during tonight’s game. For Jost, however, who played over 300 games in Denver and was drafted by the Avs, I’d imagine this could be an emotional one.

And for those of us who still hold a torch for former-Wild backup Darcy Kuemper, he’s expected to be between the pipes for Colorado tonight.

Puck drop is early tonight, so make sure to set a reminder for 5:00 p.m.

Burning Questions

Will Talbot give the Wild a winning chance in net?

We’ve seen Talbot in net twice since the trade deadline, with a shut out against Vegas that night and a 3-2 overtime win against Vancouver on Thursday. I’ve seen some overexcited fans say the trade deadline switch up “fixed” Talbot, which is certainly an exaggeration with such a small sample size. Although I think the concerns over Talbot’s goaltender were also exaggerated.

I think Talbot is going to come into this game rested and ready to go, but the Avalanche are probably going to score earlier and more frequently than Wild fans would like. It’s up to the skaters to answer at the other end.

Can Jost pull out a fairytale first Wild goal tonight?

Maybe this is just a personal burning question, or more accurately a burning wish, but I can’t help but want a poetic first goal for Jost. We’ve seen some great moments for other players who have joined the team this year, most recently with Flower’s debut and third-star bouquet toss. I want Jost to have his own “welcome to the Wild” moment, and what better game than tonight?