NHL on NBCSN: Avs seek vengeance against the Wild

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign when the Minnesota Wild host the Colorado Avalanche at Xcel Energy Center at 9 p.m. ET tonight. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game online.

With about eight minutes remaining in Game 7 of their first-round series against the Colorado Avalanche, the Minnesota Wild looked like they were in trouble.

The Avalanche held a 4-3 lead thanks to an Erik Johnson goal 11:16 into the third period, and shortly after that, Darcy Kuemper left with an injury, prompting struggling goalie Ilya Bryzgalov to come in cold.

Of course, things unraveled for Colorado instead, as Jared Spurgeon tied that game up with less than three minutes remaining and then Nino Niederreiter capped an impressive night with the series-clincher in overtime, sending Minnesota to the second round and ending the Avs’ season in the process.

It’s the sort of defeat that sticks with you.

“It was a nightmare for all of us, especially for me,” Semyon Varlamov told NHL.com in July.

Much like the San Jose Sharks against the Los Angeles Kings last night, beating Minnesota in their 2014-15 season-opener wouldn’t totally make up for that playoff letdown, yet it’s a start for the Avalanche. It won’t be easy, especially on the road, however.

Tonight’s contest also provides an opportunity to see how far the two teams have come after some significant offseason moves. The Avalanche parted ways with Paul Stastny and P.A. Parenteau while adding veterans Jarome Iginla, Brad Stuart and Daniel Briere. The Wild added dangerous sniper Thomas Vanek and saw Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom emerge from all their goalie drama. Each franchise made big moves, yet predictions are all over the board for Colorado and Minnesota.

Of course, both teams have plenty of young talent to get excited about, with Nathan MacKinnon drawing all kinds of hype this summer:

While one night won’t make or break Patrick Roy’s system, the debate between his traditional stance and the “fancy stats” crowd adds yet another intriguing storyline to the mix.

Could we see more seeds planted for a growing Central Division rivalry? Will MacKinnon and Matt Duchene wow us some more in 2014-15? Is this the year in which the Wild take all that marquee talent and make a big run?

The Avalanche and Wild will begin answering those questions tonight.

(Oh, and also that whole Matt Cooke-Tyson Barrie thing. Might want to keep an eye on that.)