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Wild-Avalanche Preview

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie (4) and Minnesota Wild left wing Erik Haula (56), from Finland, skate in a spray of ice during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series on Thursday, April 17, 2014, in Denver. (AP P Photo:

Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie (4) and Minnesota Wild left wing Erik Haula (56), from Finland, skate in a spray of ice during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey first-round playoff series on Thursday, April 17, 2014, in Denver. (AP P

The Minnesota Wild have made a habit of dealing the Colorado Avalanche heartbreaking defeats.

First came the Wild's overtime goal in Game 7 of a first-round playoff series in 2014. Then, in one of seven victories over the nine meetings since, they overcame a pair of three-goal deficits to beat the Avalanche in this season's opener.

A Minnesota win in regulation Saturday would extend its wild-card lead to five points and significantly damage the Avs' playoff hopes as they await the return of their top two scorers.

The Wild (36-28-11) spoiled Colorado coach Patrick Roy's first season behind the bench in 2013-14 and eliminated the Central Division champions by winning four of the series' last five games. A rivalry is brewing now that the clubs are battling for the Western Conference's final playoff spot, although it's been pretty one-sided.

Zach Parise's hat trick, capped by scoring the first and last of Minnesota's four third-period goals, gave the Wild a 5-4 road win over the Avalanche (38-22-4) on Oct. 8 on their way to winning three of the season's first four meetings. Parise has four goals and three assists against Colorado in 2015-16 and 25 points in his last 17 matchups, including the postseason.

He registered his third hat trick of the season Thursday and became the first in franchise history to score three in one period during a 6-2 win over Calgary. It gave the Wild their third four-game winning streak since firing Mike Yeo on Feb. 14 and replacing him with interim coach John Torchetti.

"We know the importance of (the Colorado game)," said Parise, who had two goals in his previous 25 while reportedly battling an undisclosed injury. "We didn't want to overlook (Calgary) and we did a good job of not doing that. Now we can start getting ready for that big one."

It's become a two-team race for the second wild-card spot. The Avalanche had won three in a row before Thursday's 4-2 home loss to Philadelphia, but closing to within one point with a regulation victory would put the heat on the Wild.

"This might come down to the last period of the last game of the year, so that's what we're focused on,'' Torchetti said. ''We're (taking it) game by game."

Colorado escaped Calgary with a 4-3 shootout win March 18 without Matt Duchene, then played without him and fellow center Nathan MacKinnon in Sunday's 3-2 victory over Edmonton. Both are battling knee injuries and aren't expected to play in this contest.

Duchene's 56 points lead the Avs, with MacKinnon's 52 closely behind.

"I think we all knew that (facing Minnesota) was a huge game regardless what happened (Thursday)," defenseman Erik Johnson said. "Obviously, we would be much happier going into that game only back a point.

"There are a handful of games left in the season, and we're going to make the most of them, and it starts Saturday."

The Avalanche allowed the game's final three goals in the last six minutes against the Flyers and were outshot by 10 as Semyon Varlamov made 41 saves.

"That was a key game for us, but the good thing is we get a chance to play Minny on Saturday afternoon," Roy said. "That's the good thing."

Varlamov will be in net again for this one. He's started all of the previous meetings, including being pulled after giving up three goals on 12 shots in a 6-3 loss in the last matchup March 1.

Devan Dubnyk has a 1.68 goals-against average during the Wild's winning streak and is 7-3-0 with a 1.81 GAA in Colorado during his career.

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