When the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild face off tonight (9:00 p.m. ET) it’s a battle of teams dealing with key injuries trying to get into playoff position in the Western Conference.
The Wild’s injury problems are numerous. Mikko Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, and Guillaume Latendresse are all out. Koivu’s loss is especially hard for the Wild as he’s been their leader in all things. Devin Setoguchi had been dealing with some nagging issues but he’s back while Dany Heatley has been trying to be Mr. Everything for the Wild offensively. That hasn’t gone so well though as the Wild are near the bottom of the league in goals scored.
Meanwhile, starting goalie Niklas Backstrom too has been banged up leaving Josh Harding and Matt Hackett to hold things down in goal. After a red hot start to the season, things have gone ice cold for the Wild as they’ve lost 7 of their last 10 games and 14 of their last 17. Hard to believe back in December this team was on top of the West and are now one point behind Colorado for eighth.
The Avalanche are in playoff position thanks to a hot run through December that saw them pick themselves off the floor after a tough start to the season. They too are missing some star power though as Matt Duchene is out of action with a knee injury. Picking up the slack for the Avs, however, is a relative unknown in Ryan O’Reilly.
O’Reilly leads the team in points (36) and goals (14) and is having a strong year while teammates Paul Stastny, Milan Hejduk, and rookie Gabriel Landeskog are chipping in here and there. Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere have done their part playing strong in goal with Varlamov being especially good at home.
Desperate teams can make for desperate games and these divisional foes need to hoard points while they can. Finishing the season in the playoffs is what their goal is and neither team wants to wind up out of the postseason lamenting what could’ve been.