DENVER — First place in the Central Division is on the line Wednesday night when the Wild kick off a two-game trip at Colorado, and the Wild will have a different look for the matchup.
Ryan Reaves (upper-body injury) and Brandon Duhaime (sick) won't play, leaving the Wild will 11 forwards. They'll fill out their lineup with seven defensemen: John Klingberg will return from an upper-body injury that sidelined him the last three games, and veteran defenseman Alex Goligoski could take shifts at forward. Filip Gustavsson gets the start in net.
"A lot of different options for us, and we feel very comfortable," coach Dean Evason said. "Talked to Goose this morning that he's very comfortable playing forward. He's excited about it if he gets the opportunity."
As for what's at stake, only one point separates the Wild and Avalanche in the standings.
The Wild continue to lead the Central Division since bumping Dallas from the top spot last weekend; Colorado, though, has one game at-hand over the Wild and that means the Avalanche hold the tiebreaker if both teams end up even in points at the end of the night.
Over the last 20 games, the Wild have been on a roll, going 15-1-4. But so have the Avalanche: They're 15-4-1 since Feb. 17.
"It's a big game for both teams," Ryan Hartman said. "I'd expect them to bring their best, and they should expect us to bring our best."
Marcus Foligno-Ryan Hartman-Mats Zuccarello
Marcus Johansson-Joel Eriksson Ek-Matt Boldy
Sam Steel-Frederick Gaudreau-Oskar Sundqvist
Mason Shaw-Connor Dewar-Alex Goligoski
Jake Middleton-Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba
Jon Merrill-John Klingberg
7-1-4: Record for Gustavsson in his past 12 starts.
11: Points in 13 games for Marcus Johansson since he was traded to the Wild from Washington.
12: Goals for Matt Boldy in March.
15: Points for Boldy over his last nine games.
499: Career games for Hartman.
Pregame statistics, win probability and betting lines
About the Avalanche:
The Avalanche are 9-1 in their last 10 games, scoring at least five goals in half those contests. They're 2-0 against the Wild this season, with both of those victories coming in St. Paul. Center Nathan MacKinnon has 49 points in 42 career games vs. the Wild. MacKinnon is closing in on 100 points for the season, leading Colorado with 95. Winger Mikko Rantanen is also nearing a milestone: He's at 48 goals, a career high and 12 more than he tallied last season.