The Minnesota Wild’s current six-game losing streak has been pockmarked by absences of key players, most notably Captain Mikko Koivu. Despite the six losses (four in regulation), the Wild has maintained the top spot in the Northwest Division and owns the second spot in the Western Conference. That’s why you bank as many points as possible in the early going, so when injuries strike the team with this kind of ferocity, there is some insurance. The Wild has at least bought enough time to stay in a great position and now the club expects to have a healthy Koivu return to the lineup when the Colorado Avalanche visit.
The Wild went into the three-day Christmas break on a sour note, dropping a 4-1 decision to the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday. Dany Heatley picked up his 10th goal of the season, but only after the Oilers built a 4-0 lead on Niklas Backstrom, who stopped 27 of 31 shots in the loss.
The Avalanche come to town having won four straight, all by a one-goal margin. On Friday, Matt Duchene scored in overtime to propel the Avs to a 2-1 win over Tampa Bay. Ryan O’Reilly also scored for Colorado while Jean-Sebastien Giguere earned the win with 28 saves on 29 shots.
Wild vs. Avalanche will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North PLUS with a start time at 5:00 PM. To find Fox Sports North PLUS on your television provider, click here. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
Click here to receive Minnesota Wild broadcast alerts/game day previews each Wild Game day.
With the early 5:00 start time, you’ll be able to catch some more great hockey later tonight. Jason Zucker, Charlie Coyle and Team USA will be taking on Denmark in their first game of the World Junior Championships. Puck drop is set for 7:00 p.m. tonight and will be on various televisions throughout the arena.
Getting Koivu back wouldn’t be the only advantage for the Wild. They also are getting the Avs here in St. Paul the day after Christmas, and that’s beneficial for a few reasons. Due to League rules, the Avs weren’t allowed to travel until this morning, which doesn’t leave time for a team that hasn’t skated in two days and won’t have the benefit of a morning skate.
But Colorado has also been on fire in Denver, where they’ve won eight straight. On the flip side, the Avs haven’t won a road game in over two months getting outscored 41-20 and going 0-8-1 away from home since October 22.
With Koivu’s return, the Wild will be getting its hottest player back. Prior to suffering his lower body injury, Koivu had a point in 13 of his last 14 games, totaling 18 points on seven goals and 11 assists in that stretch.
We saw last year how important Koivu is to this lineup in so many ways. When he was sidelined late in the season with a broken finger, the Wild’s chances at a playoff berth dissipated quickly. This absence wasn’t nearly as long, and the Wild still finds itself in a great position as we roll toward the midway point of the regular season.
The Wild was playing with eight healthy defensemen before Clayton Stoner left Thursday’s game with a lower body injury. Stoner won’t play tonight, but that still leaves one extra man in a battle for playing time. It looks like Lundin will get back in tonight alongside his familiar defensive partner, Nick Schultz.
In addition to Koivu, Colton Gillies will also make a return to the lineup:
"We said what we needed to say after that game and we talked about it. We know what happened before the break, but we had the break. And it came at the perfect time so for me it's all about right now and moving forward with this."
- Mike Yeo on forgetting about the loss in Edmonton and regrouping after the Christmas break
D Erik Johnson and injured C Peter Mueller are both natives of Bloomington. Johnson played his college hockey with the University of Minnesota…Injured RW Chuck Kobasew spent two-plus seasons with the Wild.
Tonight will mark the ninth time the Wild has played on the day after Christmas. In the previous eight, the Wild is 2-3-3 with a 1-1-1 home mark.