The Colorado Avalanche will wrap up their five-game road trip in Minnesota on Sunday at the Xcel Energy Center. They stole a game in Columbus on Saturday, as they came back to squeak by the Blue Jackets, 2-1. The Blue Jackets were leading going into the final period, but exited the game with a 2-1 loss. It was another terrific effort by Elvis Merzlikins and the Blue Jackets’ defence. However, the offence couldn’t help out in any form.
That lack of offensive punch could hurt the Blue Jackets as we get closer to the end of the regular season and the postseason race begins to heat up. That being said, the Blue Jackets are playing with house money at this point, just like they were doing against the Lightning in the first-round of the playoffs. In any event, the Avalanche were able to take advantage of a team that doesn’t have an extra gear on offence.
Colorado is trying to catch the St. Louis Blues in the Central Division, though it’s not going to be an easy hill to climb. The Blues currently have the top spot in the division with 73 points, while the Avalanche are trailing by five points as the No. 2 team in the Central. The Stars are only a point behind after upsetting the Blues in St. Louis last night. The most realistic scenario for the Avalanche is that they get the No. 2 or 3 seed in the Central. It’s unlikely they’d fall all the way back further than that and have to depend on a wildcard.
Their opponent tonight, the Wild, had yesterday off after notching a 3-2 win against the Dallas Stars on Friday night. It’s a big win for the Wild who are going to need several more if they want to be playing hockey in the spring. They are currently in a tough spot in the Central Division, but getting a wildcard is not going to be impossible if they finish strong. It’s a crowded field, though, and they’ll have to battle with several other teams to get in. The odds are against them, but it’s the NHL, so expect the unexpected.
If it’s going to happen, somebody will have to get hot in the crease. They’ve largely been depending on a career backup to carry the load between the pipes this season. Whether Devan Dubnyk has been away from the team for personal matters, or playing poorly when he’s with the team, the Wild have been turning to Alex Stalock heavily in 2019-20. Stalock is playing fine enough for a guy who is supposed to be the backup behind Dubnyk. Dubnyk, though, has not been consistent and more of a liability than anything. In any case, he’s probably the more likely of the two to get hot. Stalock is what he is, a decent backup that will provide what is advertised. Dubnyk is listed as probable to get the nod on Sunday against the Avalanche. Head below for our free Avalanche vs. Wild pick.
Colorado Avalanche vs. Minnesota Wild Betting Odds:
Avalanche vs. Wild Prediction:
The Wild are going nowhere if Dubnyk can’t turn up the heat and play like it’s any of the last five seasons in Minnesota. His previous career-low with the Wild was a 2.54 GAA last season. He’s well on his way to smashing that low and possibly surpassing his career-low. Dubnyk owns a 3.35 GAA and 0.892 save percentage. He finished with a 0.894 save percentage in Edmonton in 2013-14, which is his worst season in the NHL with a minimum of 25 starts.
Home ice at Excel Energy Center has helped him slightly, but nothing that indicates he has an advantage. Dubnyk has posted a 3.06 GAA and 0.892 save percentage in Minnesota this season. Conversely, Stalock has a 2.85 GAA and 0.905 save percentage in 27 games. So, not fantastic or anything, but he’s been steady enough. Just don’t expect him to carry the load. Pavel Francouz is expected for the Avalanche in the crease tonight. He owns a 2.45 GAA and 0.924 save percentage. Francouz is one of the better backups you’re going to find in the league.
Without a solid option to put in net, the Wild have been suffering in the defensive zone. Too many pucks are finding their way across the line. The Wild have allowed 3.26 goals per game for 25th in the league. That’s not what we typically come to find from the Wild defensively. That said, we also don’t tend to see this poor play from their goaltending. In their previous ten outings, Minnesota has yielded 3.2 goals per game, though the offence has been able to lessen the blow with 3.3 goals a game through that stretch.
Unfortunately for the Wild, they will have to deal with an Avalanche team who are capable of scoring the puck at will. It didn’t come to fruition last night, though that was against Merzlikins and the Blue Jackets. The Avalanche have top honours in the NHL, with an average of 3.66 goals scored per game. In their previous ten games, they’ve notched 3.8 per contest so last night may have just been an outlier. Look for the Avs to get back to their offensive game in Minnesota tonight. Whether the Wild can answer enough is going to be interesting. In any event, expect a game of the higher scoring variety, with the OVER a bettable play here.