The Wild will take a by-committee approach Saturday to filling winger Kevin Fiala's spot while he starts to serve a three-game suspension for boarding.
Only 11 forwards will face the Avalanche, with the Wild tabbing defenseman Brad Hunt to complete its lineup.
"Anytime somebody goes down or is out of your lineup, somebody gets an opportunity to step up," coach Dean Evason said. "So, Kevin's a part of our team. We'll miss him, for sure. But we are excited that maybe some people will get a little more ice time and some people will get maybe some different looks. He'll be missed, for sure."
This is the third time this season Hunt has swooped in when a forward was out; he previously took occasional shifts on the fourth line when Nico Sturm missed two games last weekend due to illness. But in the first of four straight games against Colorado, the Wild is planning to use Hunt as a seventh defensemen. The team will also roll out Hunt on the power play, which is now 2-for-34 on the season.
"Our power play has struggled," Evason said. "We need to simplify our game. We need to get pucks to the net, and we need to get some dirty goals. Whenever something is struggling, you need somebody to shoot the puck. We need everybody to shoot the puck, and we need to crash the net. Brad Hunt shoots the puck very well."
Goalie Kaapo Kahkonen will make a fourth straight start, and he'll be backed up by Cam Talbot – his first game since suffering a lower-body injury Jan.22 vs. San Jose.
"Just happy to get back out there with the guys," Talbot said. "Looking forward to backing up here tonight and hopefully get back in there tomorrow."
Zach Parise-Nick Bjugstad
Marcus Johansson-Joel Eriksson Ek-Kirill Kaprizov
Jordan Greenway-Nico Sturm-Marcus Foligno
Victor Rask-Nick Bonino-Ryan Hartman
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba
Carson Soucy-Ian Cole
2-2: Record for the Wild last season vs. Colorado.
106: Games for the Wild against the Avalanche, the most in the Wild's history.
40: Points for winger Zach Parise in 40 career games vs. Colorado.
4: Goals for center Joel Eriksson Ek in his last five games.
99: Career goals for center Nick Bjugstad.
About the Avalanche:
Colorado is tied with the Wild in the West Division at 5-3. The Avalanche are coming off a two-game sweep of San Jose, outscoring the Sharks 10-3 in those two games. Goalie Philipp Grubauer pitched a 21-save shutout Thursday. Right winger Mikko Rantanen has scored a goal in all four of the team's road games. Center Nazem Kadri is one point shy of 400 for his career.