PLAYOFF SERIES: Western Conference quarterfinal; tied 1-1.
It’s been 11 years since a playoff game was played in Minnesota.
The Wild hope to make it a worthwhile wait as they return home after a surprising split of the first two games in Colorado of their best-of-seven series for a pivotal Game 3 matchup against the Avalanche at Xcel Energy Center.
“It’s going to be exciting for our fans,” center Wes Walz said. “They’ve waited a long time for a playoff game.
“The first couple of years weren’t always the greatest. We lost quite a few games, and they’ve always stuck behind us.”
The last postseason game in Minnesota took place in 1992 when the North Stars dropped a seven-game playoff series to the Detroit Red Wings.
The Avs expect a raucous atmosphere.
“I think we probably are going to face a different team,” Colorado center Joe Sakic said. “They will have more energy and try to come out hard and forecheck a little bit more. That’s the way they usually play there.”
The third-year Wild have been one of the biggest surprises this season and continued their magic with a shocking 4-2 win Thursday over the Northwest Division champs in Game 1. Dwayne Roloson had 39 saves and Andrew Brunette had a goal and an assist for Minnesota.
Minnesota took just three penalties in Game 1, but doubled that number in the first period alone in Game 2.
“That’s not our game,” said Wild center Darby Hendrickson, who had two assists Saturday. “That’s not going to help us in a series like this, or really help any team.”
Though Roloson has a 2.52 goals-against average and a .928 saves percentage through the first two games of the set, Wild coach Jacques Lemaire won’t name a starting goalie for this contest until just before game time.
Lemaire has alternated Roloson and Manny Fernandez in net throughout the season with Roloson getting the majority of the starts. But Lemaire has promised to use Fernandez at least once in the series.
As the more experienced goalie, Fernandez may get his first start because Lemaire is worried his young team might be too excited for the franchise’s first home playoff game in the franchise’s brief history.
“I don’t want them to be nervous,” Lemaire said. “We have young guys, and they’re easy to get excited.”
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Avalanche - 105 points; 3rd seed. Wild - 95 points; 6th seed.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Avalanche - Hejduk, 2 goals and 3 points; Rob Blake, 2 assists; Bryan Marchment and Alex Tanguay, 4 PIM. Wild - Brunette and Wes Walz, 2 goals; Sergei Zholtok and Darby Hendrickson, 2 assists; Brunette, 3 points; Walz, Richard Park and Andrei Zyuzin, 4 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Avalanche - Power play: 11.1 percent (1 for 9). Penalty killing: 62.5 percent (5 for 8). Wild - Power play: 37.5 percent (3 for 8). Penalty killing: 88.9 percent (8 for 9).
GOALTENDERS: Avalanche - Roy (1-1-0, 3.05); David Aebischer (no appearances). Wild - Roloson (1-1-0, 2.52 GAA); Fernandez (no appearances).
REGULAR SEASON SERIES: Avalanche, 2-1-2. The series was tightly played and low scoring, with Colorado outscoring Minnesota 14-12. Roy went 2-0-2 with a 1.68 GAA in the series.