Preview: Wild vs Avalanche 17 Nov 11

THE STORY: The Minnesota Wild used a dramatic comeback to salvage a winning road trip and now hope for a carry-over effect when they kick off a six-game homestand against the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday night. After opening the season with six losses in the first nine games, the Wild has rebounded to go 7-2 and surge to the top of the Northwest Division standings. Minnesota will look to continue its recent success against division rivalColorado, having won the last three meetings overall and eight of the last 10 on its home ice. The wheels are starting to come off for the Avalanche, who started the season with six consecutive road victories before hitting the wall in November, going 1-5-1 in seven games this month. Colorado’s woes continued Tuesday when it surrendered five unanswered goals – including four in the third period – of a 6-3 loss at Pittsburgh.

ABOUT THE AVALANCHE (8-9-1): Colorado’s collapse against Pittsburgh dropped it below .500 for the first time since the season opener. The Avalanche are giving up goals in buckets – only NHL-worst Columbus has allowed more than their total of 60 among Western Conference teams. The power play ranks second in the league behind Vancouver at 26.2 percent, but the Avs have had 25 fewer opportunities than the Canucks. G Semyon Varlamov is mired in a six-game skid (0-5-1).

ABOUT THE WILD (10-5-3): Minnesota withstood a 45-shot assault at Columbus to score four unanswered goals in a 4-2 win Tuesday. Even though Matt Cullen scored on the man advantage, the power play has been a disaster, ranking 25th in the league with a conversion rate of 12.7 percent (9-for-71). A spate of injuries hit the Wild on the road swing, with LW Guillaume Latendresse and D Marco Scandella suffering concussions and D Marek Zidlickyscheduled to be evaluated for one.

1. Wild G Niklas Backstrom earned his pay on the just-concluded road trip, facing an average of 39 shots in his four starts.
2. The Avalanche have dropped their last four on the road and have been outscored 22-13 in the process.

PREDICTION: Wild 4, Avalanche 2. Colorado’s recent road woes continue and newly named captain Milan Hejduk falls to 0-2 with the “C” on his jersey.