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28-28-10

Avalanche-Wild Preview

AP - Sports

The Colorado Avalanche have lost their scoring touch at an inopportune time.

A visit to struggling Minnesota on Sunday night might help the Avalanche get back on track, but Colorado has had trouble beating the Wild over much of the past two seasons.

Colorado outscored opponents 17-5 over four consecutive wins but has scored once during back-to-back defeats. Matt Hunwick helped the Avalanche end a 114:12 scoreless skid with his second goal of the season Saturday but his team was routed 5-1 by Pittsburgh.

"It's a do-or-die situation every game," said goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who tied a season high by allowing four goals. "We're approaching it like it's a must-win every night. For that, you must be physical, you must get in the other guy's face. Unfortunately it wasn't enough tonight."

That defeat kept 10th-place Colorado (33-29-4) three points behind Dallas and San Jose, which currently hold the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference.

"This is when you really see who wants to get in the playoffs, who wants to win," forward Gabriel Landeskog said. "We've got a great group of guys in here. We really have a lot of winners in here. We just have to go out and show that, enough talking, we've just got to go out and execute."

The Avalanche's next opponent hasn't done that much lately, having been outscored 14-4 during an 0-2-1 skid. The Wild suffered their most lopsided defeat of the season, 6-0 in Detroit on Friday.

"It was not much fun. That's for sure," coach Mike Yeo said. "The part that was disappointing for me is that we were so bad defensively. I know we can defend a lot better than that.

"We put ourselves in a tough spot and didn't respond after that. ... We have to make sure we regroup quickly for Sunday."

Josh Harding, who started in place of an injured Niklas Backstrom (strained groin), gave up all of those goals in 45:30 before being pulled. The injury-plagued team also lost forwards Cal Clutterbuck and Nick Palmieri to upper-body ailments in that game.

The recall of defenseman Steve Kampfer and center Chad Rau from Houston on Saturday would appear to indicate that both players might not be ready for Sunday's game.

The fading Wild (28-27-10) enter this contest seven points out of a playoff spot. They're also 3-8-3 in their last 14 and 2-5-1 in their last eight home games.

Minnesota, though, has won six of the last seven matchups with Colorado and three of four this season. The Avalanche's lone victory was during their previous visit to Minnesota, a 4-2 win Dec. 26.

Jan Hejda had the tiebreaking goal and assisted on the final of three unanswered scores to help his team snap a three-game skid at the Xcel Energy Center.

The Avalanche, however, have also been shut out twice during this season's series but Backstrom was in net for both of those 1-0 wins. With their starter out for the next two to four weeks, Minnesota is expected to start either Harding or Matt Hackett.

Harding is 3-2-1 with a 1.70 goals-against average in seven career games against Colorado, while Hackett has never faced the Avalanche.

Colorado, meanwhile, might look to Semyon Varlamov, who is 2-0-0 with a 1.50 GAA in his career against the Wild.

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