Colorado at Minnesota

Venue: Xcel Energy Center

The Northwest Division-leading Minnesota Wild return home in high spirits following what turned out to be an impressive five-game trip.

Since a franchise-best opening run as the visiting team, the Colorado Avalanche's efforts on the road haven't been nearly as rewarding.

Seeking a fourth consecutive home win, Minnesota looks to continue its recent success against Colorado as the teams meet for the first time this season Thursday night.

After going 1-2-0 to open its recently completed trip, the Wild (10-5-3) recorded back-to-back victories behind tremendous performances from Niklas Backstrom. Backstrom made 32 saves in Sunday's 3-2 win at Anaheim before turning away a season-high 43 shots during Tuesday's 4-2 victory in Columbus.

Minnesota, which was outshot 192-124 during its road swing, fell behind 2-0 on Tuesday before scoring four unanswered goals over the final two periods.

"I was real impressed with the character of the guys," coach Mike Yeo said.

"It would have been really easy when you're that tired, you don't have everything in the tank you had at the start of the trip, to just say, 'OK, it wasn't our night. It wasn't a terrible trip. We got a couple of wins here, let's just move on to our homestand,' but the guys didn't do that."

Backstrom improved to 3-1-0 with a 1.76 goals-against average over his last four starts - all on the road. He'll look for his momentum to carry over at home, where he's lost back-to-back games while posting a 3.55 GAA.

"It feels good to win on the road but on the other hand we have to find a way to get better every night," Backstrom said. "That's what we're focusing on."

The Wild, who have won a season-best three straight at Xcel Energy Center while outscoring opponents 8-2, have gone 18-6-2 against Colorado over the previous four seasons - 10-3-0 at home.

The Avalanche (8-9-1) won their first six road games but have since suffered four consecutive defeats as the visiting team, falling 6-3 to Pittsburgh on Tuesday.

Forwards Jay McClement and Matt Duchene gave Colorado an early 2-0 lead and David Jones made it 3-1 heading into the second period, but the Avalanche allowed five unanswered goals the rest of the way.

"It was one of those things where every time we felt like we were going to get some momentum back we didn't get the bounce we needed or the call we needed," said Duchene, who leads the Avalanche with 14 points.

Coach Joe Sacco's team now finds itself in the midst of a 2-7-1 stretch.

Semyon Varlamov stopped just 27 of 33 shots Tuesday, dropping to 0-5-1 with a 4.57 GAA this month. He made 29 saves in his only career appearance against the Wild, a 3-1 victory Nov. 13, 2009, while with Washington.

No. 2 goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere is 0-3-2 with a 3.52 GAA over his last five visits to Minnesota.

Backstrom, in contrast, has thrived against Colorado, going 17-4-2 with a 2.28 GAA. He's won 10 of the last 12 matchups at home.

Backstrom will look to slow down recently promoted Avalanche captain Milan Hejduk, who's notched six points in his last four games. Hejduk has recorded five goals and three assists over a six-game point streak versus the Wild.

Despite Colorado's recent struggles away from home, it's converted 12 of 31 power-play opportunities on the road (38.7 percent) - the highest mark in the league.

Copyright 2018 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
Game Odds
Colorado 120 Minnesota -140
Team Standings W L OT Pts L 10
Colorado5th Central 271635710-0-0
Minnesota6th Central 26175576-2-2

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