Wild, Avs will renew rivalry quickly

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 23, 2014 - 7:02 AM
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When last we saw the Wild and Colorado Avalanhce, Nino Niederreiter, right, was celebrating after beating goalie Semyon Varlamov in overtime in Game 7 of the first-round playoff series

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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The Colorado Avalanche, ousted by the Wild in last season’s first round thanks to a Game 7 overtime goal by Nino Niederreiter, won’t have to wait long to get its hands on the Wild again.

Minnesota will open the 2014-15 NHL season with a home-and-home series against the defending Central Division champion. The Wild will open the season against the Avs on Oct. 9 at Xcel Energy Center, where it’s 11-0-2 in home openers. It will then travel to Denver for a game two nights later as part of a stretch of five out of seven games on the road.

However, oddly, between Games 2 and 3, the Wild will have five days off before resuming its road trip Oct. 17 at Anaheim and Oct. 19 at recent Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles.

As part of the 82-game schedule, the Wild will play the following:

• 29 games against the Central Division — five each vs. Chicago, Colorado, Dallas and Nashville and four vs. St. Louis;

• 21 games against the Pacific Division — three each against Anaheim, Arizona (no longer named Phoenix), Calgary, Edmonton, Los Angeles, San Jose and Vancouver.

• And 32 games against the Eastern Conference (one home, one away each).

The Wild will play 13 sets of back-to-back games, including rare back-to-back home games March 27 and 28 vs. Calgary and Los Angeles. The defending Stanley Cup champs come to Minnesota the first time Nov. 26, the Wild will play a home-and-home series vs. rival Winnipeg Dec. 27 at home and Dec. 29 on the road, will play at Columbus on New Year’s Eve and will break for the All-Star Game in Columbus from Jan. 21-26.

After the Jan. 25 All-Star Game, the Wild plays 18 home games and 18 road games during the stretch drive. Of those 36 games, 14 will be against the Central Division and 25 vs. the West.

The Wild’s longest homestand is five games from March 27-April 6 vs. Calgary, L.A., the Rangers, Detroit and Winnipeg. The Wild has seven three-game road trips and one four-game road trip, although that first game at Detroit is separated by the All-Star Game and continues with three games at Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

Originally, the Wild was supposed to host a stadium-series outdoor game against Dallas at Target Field. However, only San Jose will host one this season.

According to an NHL source, the Wild is at the “top of the list” for a stadium-series game and was scheduled to have a game this year. What held it up was timing and logistics, the source said. According to another source, the Wild wants to make a stadium-series game a colossal event accompanied by outdoor high school and college games.

The league, however, wanted the game to be in February, and by the time that decision was made, the local colleges had already booked their schedules for next season. In addition, Target Field was worried the game would be played too close to the 2015 Twins season and would wreak havoc on its field.

An NHL source said, “At the end of the day, both of us determined that next year would be better. It’s going to happen next year.”

The Wild is still imploring the league to award it the actual Winter Classic. The 2015 game will be in Washington with the Capitals playing Chicago. The 2016 game hasn’t been announced, but a source said it won’t be in Minnesota.

Fletcher shopping Brodziak, Backstrom

Chuck Fletcher has a history of draft-day trades and spent last week working the phones.

“Everyone calls everybody,” the Wild GM said. “You don’t see a whole bunch of trades the week prior to the draft. It’s all about trying to figure out who your likely dance partners can be the week at the draft. It’ll take a move or two to get the ball rolling, and then there’s usually a domino-type effect. We’re not there yet.”

Fletcher has been shopping center Kyle Brodziak, sources say, and may be willing to retain salary and cap space to trade goalie Niklas Backstrom, who is recovering well from season-ending abdominal and hip surgeries.

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