Happy Game Day everybody! Wild and Avs tonight at 8:30 p.m. CT.
I will be hosting a live Wild-Avalanche/NHL chat on startribune.com today at 3 p.m. CT. Please join. I'll also be on Fox Sports North during tonight's pregame show and first intermission.
I'll also be on KFAN today, Friday and Monday at 4:30 p.m. CT.
John Mitchell is indeed out tonight for Colorado, as are Matt Duchene and Cory Sarich.
John Curry will back up Ilya Bryzgalov. Darcy Kuemper is getting closer to backing up, but with only two practices under his belt, coach Mike Yeo said the Wild's not comfortable yet putting him in uniform.
I had a great chat this morning with Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Colorado's now backup who may be leaning toward retirement after this season. He talked about his days with Bryzgalov, who was Giguere's backup in Anaheim, and also looked back to the 2003 Western Conference Finals. I'll write some of that in Friday's paper.
"You never have a boring day with Bryz around," Giguere said.
Avs coach Patrick Roy reminded us that Avs goalie coach Francois Allaire was also Bryzgalov's goalie coach in Anaheim, so "we have a lot of info on him."
Wild fans will probably get an appreciation in this series about just how good Nathan MacKinnon will be, is already and how lightning fast he is.
Obviously, the Wild will want Ryan Suter out against MacKinnon, but I think Yeo will also feel very comfortable with his two most mobile defensemen, Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella, out there against him, too. I asked Yeo if the Wild may go with a coaching strategy of yesteryear and assign a player also to shadown MacKinnon (although the only one probably capable is speedy Erik Haula), but Yeo indicated it'll be a five-man unit thing.
"He’s a very dynamic player," Yeo said. "They have a number of them. We have to be careful that we’re not just keying on one guy, but this is a guy that you have to be incredibly impressed with his rookie season. His speed, the way he’s able to generate it so quickly – it doesn’t take much, there’s a loose puck and he’s jumping on it and his first couple strides are so explosive that you have to limit those opportunities. Once he does build that speed, then you have to make sure you’re containing it. We do feel good about the mobility of our defensive group. That’ll be a good challenge for them as far as them testing us with the one-on-one play."
MacKinnon was a playoff star in juniors, and he's ultra-confident. I'll write more about him later in the series. I gathered a lot of yarn on him today. I also chatted with Bloomington's Erik Johnson about his transformation into a No. 1 defenseman, and I'll write him later in the series.
On Semyon Varlamov, who won 41 games and will be a Vezina finalist, Yeo said, "We’ve done a scouting report. We’ve watched a lot of video. This is a great goalie. He’s very athletic, great side-to-side. The one thing I believe with any great goalie is the quicker you shoot the puck, the better off you are. He does a very good job of coming out and closing angles and making himself big in the net. The quicker you get the puck off your stick, the more net there is to shoot. We have to have a strong focus of making sure we’re putting a lot of traffic in front of him, making it difficult for him to come out and be aggressive on those shots."
Other little notes, Christian Folin returned to
BU Massachusetts-Lowell (had a brain cramp, sorry) to finish some schooling and pack up his life. He'll be back next week for practice with a handful of Iowa players who should be coming up Tuesday just to practice.
If you missed today's coverage, I suggest picking up a newspaper, but here are some links:
--Today's MUST READ: Ilya Bryzgalov can be goofy, eccentric, standoffish. But he's a fascinating person and goalie. Here's a decent look into his personality as the Wild's playoff hopes ride on his shoulders.
--The Wild notebook. Patrick Roy says the Avs must check Ryan Suter every chance they get. Also, Mikael Granlund set to make his playoff debut tonight.
--The Avs notebook by freelancer Michael Kelly (@berge19). Hotshot rookie Nathan MacKinnon is set to make his playoff debut, and Jan Hejda is ready to play.
--Chip Scoggins' column on how the Wild's got a shot against Colorado.
--My scouting report into the Wild and its projected lineup
--My scouting report into the Avalanche and its projected lineup
Also, below is a deeper look at the Wild-Avs series with some cool stats and tidbits
WILD VS. AVALANCHE
The series, the players, the history
Season series: Avalanche won 4-0-1, outscoring the Wild 15-10.
All-time series: Wild 37-32-10. The Avalanche has outscored Minnesota 218-198. Since March 5, 2006, the Wild is 32-14-6 against Colorado and 13-3-3 in its past 19 in Denver.
All-time playoff meetings: 1-1. 2003 Western Conference quarterfinals, Wild won 4-3, outscored by Colorado 17-16; 2008 Western Conference quarterfinals, Avalanche won 4-2, outscoring Minnesota 17-12.
Wild leading scorers vs. Avalanche this season: Zach Parise 2 goals, 5 points in 5 games; Dany Heatley 1 goal, 4 points in 5 games; Jason Pominville 1 goal, 4 points in 5 games; Mikael Granlund 1 goal, 3 points in 2 games.
Avalanche leading scorers vs. Wild this season: Gabriel Landeskog 3 goals, 6 points in 5 games; John Mitchell 1 goal, 6 points in 5 games; Nathan MacKinnon 3 goals, 5 points in 5 games; Max Talbot 3 goals, 4 points in 5 games; Ryan O’Reilly 3 goals, 4 points in 5 games.
Wild goaltending vs. Avalanche this season: Josh Harding 1-1-1 with a 1.58 goals-against average.
Avalanche goaltending vs. Wild this season: Semyon Varlamov 3-0-1 with a 2.16 goals-against average.
Wild leading scorers all-time vs. Avalanche: Mikko Koivu 15 goals, 38 points in 49 games; Dany Heatley 8 goals, 29 points in 29 games; Kyle Brodziak 7 goals, 21 points in 42 games; Ryan Suter 1 goal, 20 points in 38 games.
Wild goaltending all-time vs. Avalanche: Ilya Bryzgalov 7-4-4 with a 2.31 goals-against average; Darcy Kuemper 0-0 with a 6.66 goals-against average.
Avalanche leading scorers all-time vs. Wild: Paul Stastny 10 goals, 29 points in 46 games; Matt Duchene 5 goals, 15 points in 26 games; Gabriel Landeskog 6 goals, 14 points in 15 games.
Avalanche all-time goaltending vs. Wild: Semyon Varlamov 7-4-1 with a 2.13 goals-against average; Jean-Sebastien Giguere 11-12-5 with a 2.34 goals-against average.
Wild all-time playoff leading scorers: Dany Heatley 15 goals, 57 points in 66 games; Zach Parise 22 goals, 44 points in 66 games; Matt Cooke 13 goals, 33 points in 97 games; Jason Pominville 12 goals, 28 points in 47 games; Ryan Suter 4 goals, 13 points in 44 games.
Wild all-time playoff goaltending: Ilya Bryzgalov 17-19 with a 2.81 goals-against average and .908 save percentage; Kuemper 0-0 with a 3.29 goals-against average and .879 save percentage.
Avalanche all-time playoff leading scorers: Max Talbot 18 goals, 39 points in 77 games; Paul Stastny three goals, eight points in 15 games.
Avalanche all-time playoff goaltending: Semyon Varlamov 10-9 with a 2.49 goals-against average and .915 save percentage; Jean-Sebastien Giguere 33-17 with a 2.08 goals-against average and .925 save percentage.
No. 2 Colorado Avalanche vs. No. 7 Minnesota Wild
Records: 52-22-8; 43-27-12
Home: 26-11-4; 26-10-5
Away: 26-11-4; 17-17-7
Season-series: 4-0-1; 1-3-1
Goals For: 245 (2.99, 4th in NHL); 199 (2.43, 24th)
Goals Against: 216 (2.63, 14th); 198 (2.42, 7th)
Shots For: 29.5 (20th); 26.6 (29th)
Shots Against 32.7 (25th); 27.7 (5th)
Power play: 19.8 (5th); 17.9 (16th)
Penalty kill: 80.7 (24th); 78.8 (27th)
Goals: Colorado – Ryan O’Reilly 28, Gabriel Landeskog 26; Wild – Jason Pominville 30, Zach Parise 29
Assists: Colorado – *Matt Duchene 47, Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon 39; Wild – Mikko Koivu 43, Ryan Suter 35
Points: Duchene 70, Landeskog 65; Wild – Pominville 60, Parise 56
Power-play goals: Colorado – O’Reilly 9; Wild -- Parise 14
Time on ice: Colorado – Erik Johnson 23:00; Wild – Suter 29:24
Colorado: Semyon Varlamov – 41-14-6, 2.41 goals-against average, .927 save percentage, 2 shutouts
Wild: Ilya Bryzgalov – 7-1-3, 2.12 goals-against average, 911 save percentage, 3 shutouts
* Duchene has a sprained knee and may miss the start of the series; Mitchell is questionable with a concussion; Alex Tanguay, out for the series, isn’t included.