Series (Game 5 of 6)

Minnesota leads 5-1

Game 1: Wednesday, October 21st
Game 2: Friday, November 27th
Game 3: Saturday, November 28th
Game 4: Wednesday, December 9th
Game 5: Monday, December 21st
Game 6: Thursday, January 28th

Avalanche 4

(21-11-6, 48 pts)

Wild 3

(17-16-3, 37 pts)

8:00 PM ET, December 21, 2009

Xcel Energy Center, Saint Paul, Minnesota

1 2 3 T
COL 1 3 04
MIN 0 1 23

C. Clutterbuck (Wild - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

S. Hannan (Avalanche - D): Goals: 0, Assists: 0

O. Nolan (Wild - RW): Goals: 1, Assists: 0

Avalanche-Wild Preview


Niklas Backstrom said he played poorly in his last start. He rarely fails to play well against his next opponent.

Backstrom looks to continue his mastery of the Colorado Avalanche on Monday night when the Minnesota Wild try to improve to 5-0 this season against their Northwest Division rivals.

Minnesota (17-15-3) trails first-place Colorado (20-11-6) by nine points, but that deficit would be much bigger if not for how the Wild have fared in the season series. The Avalanche have lost once by one goal, once by two and twice in shootouts this season to Minnesota.

"Any year, any team can have another team's number; they just happen to have ours right now," defenseman Brett Clark told the Avalanche's official Web site. "We have to step up and change that starting tomorrow. We just need to stick to our game plan and worry about ourselves."

The major worry for the Avalanche is Backstrom, who is 14-2-2 with a 1.99 goals-against average in his career against them. He's posted a 1.62 GAA in three wins in 2009-10 over Colorado, making 22 saves in a 1-0 road victory in the last meeting Dec. 9.

That was the first of four straight victories for Backstrom before he had a rough outing Saturday in a 4-1 loss at Ottawa. He stopped 24 of 28 shots in a game the Wild played after a fire in an equipment van outside Scotiabank Place destroyed much of their equipment Friday.

"I didn't play a good game, I don't think as a team we played a good game," Backstrom said. "You know it would be easy to hide behind all those excuses but that's not going to make us better."

The Wild have still won nine of 12 as they open a three-game homestand. They've won four straight in Minnesota.

Colorado won three of five on its homestand after winning 5-2 over Columbus on Saturday. The Avalanche scored four times in the first 8:02 after having three days off since a 6-1 loss to Washington in their previous contest.

"It was an ideal start, kind of the start every team dreams of," said Milan Hejduk, who had two assists in the scoring spree and added the final goal in the third period. "You can't get much better. We absolutely controlled the game."

Colorado's three leaders in goals -- Wojtek Wolski, Hejduk and David Jones -- have all failed to score against Minnesota this season. Rookie center Ryan O'Reilly has no points in his last 13 games and none versus the Wild.

"The standings are so tight right now, so no matter who you're playing against you really need the two points," O'Reilly said. "That's why every game feels like one of the biggest games of the year."

Craig Anderson is expected to start for Colorado. He has lost three times to Minnesota this season, posting a 2.54 GAA and losing both shootouts.

The Avalanche have lost four straight at Xcel Energy Center.