Wild-Avalanche Preview

The Associated Press

If there's a regulation winner Tuesday night between the Colorado Avalanche and the Minnesota Wild, that team will go into the All-Star break holding one of the Western Conference's playoff spots.

The Wild will be trying to avoid a franchise-record 12th straight road loss when they take on the Northwest Division rival Avalanche.

Colorado (26-22-2) has 54 points to hold the No. 8 seed in the West, with the Wild (23-18-7) one point back. These teams have split two 2011-12 meetings in Minnesota.

"It's a team that we are right with in the playoff race, and it's a huge game," Wild center Matt Cullen said.

The Wild have matched their longest road losing streak during this 0-9-2 stretch, previously losing 11 in a row Nov. 20, 2006-Jan. 9, 2007. Minnesota was atop the NHL in early December before these road woes pushed it down the standings.

"We know where we're at," right wing Cal Clutterbuck said. "We've kind of gotten ourselves ready to really have to push here basically the last third of the season. We've put ourselves in a position where we have to fight and claw for everything we get."

Minnesota could be in a good place to end its road skid, having gone 8-1-2 in its last 11 at the Pepsi Center. Colorado, though, is 10-2-0 at home since Nov. 30.

The Avalanche split two weekend games on the road, winning 3-1 over Los Angeles on Saturday before falling 3-2 against Anaheim on Sunday. Colorado lost to the Ducks despite a 45-18 advantage in shots on goal, nearly rallying from a three-goal deficit in the final six minutes.

"I think our guys deserve a lot of credit, they didn't mail it in," coach Joe Sacco said.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 15 saves after going 3-0-0 with a 1.63 goals-against average in his previous three starts.

"I thought we deserved a better fate," Giguere said. "We obviously played a good game. We had a couple of breakdowns that they capitalized on."

Minnesota, meanwhile, enters with renewed confidence thanks to Saturday's 5-2 win over Dallas. Dany Heatley had three points and Devin Setoguchi added a goal and an assist for the Wild, who scored three times in a 59-second span in the second period.

"That's one of our best games for creating turnovers in a long time," coach Mike Yeo said. "That's a real important facet of our game, helping us get to our game. If we're playing the right way, then you should see a lot of that."

Heatley recorded his first multipoint effort since Dec. 26 - against Colorado - and Setoguchi his first since Nov. 1.

The victory came on the heels of an 0-3-1 road trip.

"I just think the road trip wasn't indicative of the kind of play that we needed and can provide," Cullen said.

Josh Harding has been getting the bulk of the recent starts for Minnesota, and he's 3-2-1 with a 1.70 GAA against the Avalanche. Niklas Backstrom is struggling at 1-6-0 with a 3.60 GAA in his last seven overall, but he's 7-2-1 with a 2.13 GAA in 10 career starts in Denver.

The Wild remain without captain Mikko Koivu due to a left shoulder injury. The team announced Monday that he'll miss the All-Star game after his first career selection.

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