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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Thursday, February 22nd (All times eastern)

Minnesota Wild (33-23-5) at Colorado Avalanche (29-27-4), 9 p.m.

(Sports Network) - Northwest Division rivals face off tonight in a key showdown from Denver's Pepsi Center, where the Colorado Avalanche aim for a much-needed victory over the Minnesota Wild.

Colorado enters this encounter eight points out of a playoff position in the Western Conference, but the inconsistent Avs helped their postseason chances with Tuesday's home triumph over Calgary, the team which presently holds the eighth and final spot.

Marek Svatos netted the tiebreaking goal 1:24 into the third period as Colorado downed the Flames, 4-3, at the Pepsi Center.

Red-hot rookie Paul Stastny had a pair of first-period power-play goals and added an assist for the Avalanche, while Milan Hejduk scored once and set up Stastny's second tally. Joe Sakic finished with a pair of assists to help Colorado halt a two-game slide.

Stastny now has seven goals and six assists during a nine-game scoring streak and established a new club rookie record with Tuesday's three-point performance. The 21-year-old now has 53 points (21 goals, 32 assists) this season, eclipsing Alex Tanguay's previous franchise mark of 51 set in 1999-00.

Sakic is also on a nine-game point streak and has amassed 17 points (5 goals, 12 assists) during his tear. Linemate Andrew Brunette is on a seven-game run, having compiled four goals and six helpers over that stretch.

Minnesota is right in the thick of the division race and comes in off a hard- fought shootout victory over Dallas. Miiko Koivu had the only goal of the deciding phase as the Wild edged the Stars, 2-1, Tuesday at the Xcel Energy Center.

Niklas Backstrom turned in a strong effort between the pipes for Minnesota, which won for the fourth time in six outings. The rookie netminder stopped 23 shots over the first 65 minutes, then repelled all three Dallas skaters in the shootout.

Brian Rolston had the regulation goal for the Wild, who trail first-place Vancouver by three points in the Northwest standings.

Minnesota will play nine of its next 12 games on the road, where the club has posted a lackluster 12-19-1 mark on the season.

The Wild were victorious in their last visit to the Pepsi Center, however, when Minnesota came through with a 5-3 decision on February 1. Colorado has won seven of the 11 most recent meetings between the clubs, though, including three of the five matchups this season.

02/22 10:59:55 ET

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