NHL Preview: Colorado at Minnesota

Two wildly contrasting styles of hockey will clash as the Colorado Avalanche (22-16-6) visit the Minnesota Wild (21-17-5). The two teams are separated in the western conference by just three points but their styles are worlds apart.

The Avs love to play an up-tempo style of game leading to scoring on both sides. As a result, Colorado is third in the conference in goals scored but has also allowed the most goals. Six players have scored more than 11 goals with center Matt Duchene leading the team with 18 goals and 43 points. Center Paul Stastny is a game-breaker while winger Chris Stewart has been a force during his brief stay (25 points in 23 games). Goaltending has been a problem, though. Both starter Craig Anderson and back-up Peter Budaj have GAAs over 3.00. Anderson has missed games with groin and knees injuries but is healthy now.

Minnesota, on the other hand, struggles to score goals and, when faced with a skilled opponent, will resort to playing a trapping, defensive system that induces yawns and fits of boredom in just about any hockey fan. Get a lead and the defense gets even more stifling. With goalie Nicklas Backstrom out with an injury, the Wild has relied on vet Jose Theodore in net and he has responded with an 8-7-2 record and one shutout. When the Wild do score, Cal Clutterbuck usually fills the net (his 13 goals led the club).

The Wild will want to slow this game down while the Avs will want to speed things up – whichever team plays its game the best will win.

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