Avalanche-Wild Preview

The Associated Press

The Minnesota Wild's top line was clicking in a season-opening victory over the Colorado Avalanche. Perhaps a second visit from the injury-plagued Avs will get Zach Parise, Dany Heatley and Mikko Koivu back on track.

Minnesota looks to match its best home start in five seasons on Thursday night when banged-up Colorado tries to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat.

The Wild (6-6-1) were hoping that signing Parise, who netted 31 or more goals in each of his previous five full seasons with New Jersey, would provide life to an offense that recorded the fewest goals in the NHL in a decade last season (166).

The Twin Cities native got off to a great start in a Wild sweater, setting up Heatley's power-play goals in a 4-2 victory over Colorado on Jan. 19, but he has just one goal in the last eight games.

Heatley hasn't recorded an assist in that stretch, and he was just moved back to the top line in Tuesday's 2-1 loss at Vancouver after getting replaced by rookie Charlie Coyle.

Koivu, who also assisted on Heatley's scores against the Avs last month, has one assist in the last seven contests.

The play of Devin Setoguchi is a good sign - he leads the Wild with two goals and three points over the last six games after finding the back of the net Tuesday - but Minnesota has six total goals while losing four of six this month.

"We got a find a way to score,'' Parise said of a team that's 29th in the NHL in goals per game (1.92). "That's too many games of just getting one. We've got to generate offense, and it's not good enough right now.''

Colorado (4-6-1) isn't much better at 2.09 after scoring four total goals during its slide. The Avs, who have been shut out three times while losing six of eight, are clearly hurting from center Ryan O'Reilly's season-long contract dispute as well as injuries to Steve Downie (ACL) and captain Gabriel Landeskog, who has missed the last seven games with a concussion.

Colorado is also without Ryan Wilson (ankle) and fellow defenseman Erik Johnson, who is sidelined indefinitely after suffering a head injury in Monday's 3-2 overtime loss to Phoenix.

"This is unbelievable,'' said center John Mitchell, who will skate Thursday after missing Monday's contest with the flu. "Hopefully, these aren't significant injuries and we can get over them relatively quickly - get this injury bug and whatever else it is out of the way.''

Avs defenseman Matt Hunwick is expected to return from a torso injury and replace Johnson. He'll be in front of Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who will make his second start of the season.

Semyon Varlamov made 31 saves for the Avalanche in last month's loss in St. Paul.

Niklas Backstrom, who turned aside 25 shots in that game to improve to 21-5-2 versus Colorado, should be in net for the Wild after Darcy Kuemper stopped 28 shots in his NHL debut on Tuesday. Kuemper was called up with backup Josh Harding feeling the effects of medication he takes for multiple sclerosis.

With a win, Minnesota will be 6-2-0 at home for the first time since a 7-2-0 start to 2007-08.

Colorado has been outscored 18-9 while posting a 1-4-0 record outside Denver.

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