June 3, 2023


General Evolution

Avalanche, Wild renew rivalry with four straight games

Rivalries are born in the playoffs, and the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild have taken that adage to heart.

Since the Wild entered the NHL in 2000 the two teams have met three times in the postseason, and each time the underdog won the series. The most recent meeting came in the first round in 2014, when the No. 7 seed Wild rallied to win a Game 7 in overtime and created competitive animosity that lingers seven years later.

The two teams haven’t faced each other in the playoffs since that series, but the next week will have a postseason feel when they meet four times. The first two games are in St. Paul, Minn., starting with Saturday night’s game.

“We always have tough games against them, and it’s always chippy and gritty,” Wild forward Marcus Foligno said. “We’re going to be excited to play them. Everyone is going to be up for those games — just looking forward to having some success against that team.”

Both teams are 5-3-0 and coming off victories. The Wild split two home games with the Los Angeles Kings, winning Thursday night. Minnesota coach Dean Evason shook up his line combinations after the team dropped two straight, moving Joel Eriksson Ek to the second line with Marcus Johansson and Kirill Kaprizov.

The change worked Thursday. Eriksson Ek and Kaprizov had goals and Johansson had a goal and an assist in the 5-3 win.

Evason might be doing some more changes after first-line forward Kevin Fiala was suspended for three games for boarding by the league for his hit on Los Angeles’ Matt Roy on Thursday. Fiala received a game misconduct for his hit from behind and the Department of Player Safety said in a video that Fiala gives “a direct push in the back that causes Roy to crash dangerously in the boards.”

Colorado will also have a change to its lineup with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare expected to be out for an extended period with a leg injury suffered in Thursday’s win over San Jose. Bellemare was hurt when the Sharks’ Ryan Donato slid into Bellemare’s left leg, which buckled.

Defenseman Devon Toews also left the game when he was hit in the skate by a shot but he returned later. However, his status for Saturday is unknown, coach Jared Bednar said Friday.

The Avalanche recalled forwards Shane Bowers and Logan O’Connor and defenseman Jacob MacDonald. Colorado is already without Matt Calvert, who is out indefinitely with an upper-body injury suffered in Sunday’s loss at Anaheim, and goaltender Pavel Francouz.

The Avalanche swept the two games from San Jose after splitting their first trio of two-game sets. Mikko Rantanen’s six-game goal streak ended Thursday but Colorado overcame a stingy Sharks defense to score three goals in the final 10:05 to win 3-0.

Nazem Kadri, who centers the second line, had two goals and an assist and has given the Avalanche what they expected when they traded for him in the summer of 2019 — scoring depth. They’ll need it against a Minnesota team with a reputation of playing tough defense.

“It’s a confidence booster,” Kadri said of winning a close, low-scoring game. “During the season good teams are able to build momentum and separate themselves in the standings. I think that’s what our main focus is on.”

–Field Level Media

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