The Colorado Avalanche have been living dangerously since returning from a seven-game hiatus due to coronavirus issues.
Colorado has won 13 straight at home and is 7-0-1 since restarting its season, but the winning hasn't been easy. The Avalanche have had to rally in six of those seven wins and until a breezy 5-0 win at Arizona on Saturday night, victory wasn't assured.
Colorado hopes Saturday will start a new trend for the team, and it gets a chance to show that when the Minnesota Wild visit Monday for a matinee game.
The Avalanche have moved into first place in the Central Division with their recent winning streak, a spot widely predicted for them since before the start of the season. Colorado, like many teams, has navigated through injuries and positive COVID-19 tests but is close to full health nearly halfway through its schedule.
The Avalanche are the top scoring team in the NHL, even though star center Nathan MacKinnon is sitting on eight goals through 35 games. MacKinnon has piled up the assists (30), but the key to Colorado's offense is the depth.
Six players have scored 10 or more goals and six are averaging more than a point a game. Their leading scorer, Nazem Kadri with 49 points, is fifth in the NHL in scoring but isn't on the Central Division All-Star team (although he's a finalist for the Last Men In vote of fans through Monday).
"A good commitment from our group to play the right way," coach Jared Bednar said of the recent run. "It hasn't always been perfect, but different nights different guys stepping up and making a play or two. It's a confident group right now, and it has been a hard-working group."
Colorado faces a streaky Minnesota team. The Wild were 19-6-1 on Dec. 9 after winning eight straight but went 0-4-1 before winning their last three.
Dynamic young forward Kirill Kaprizov returned to the lineup after sitting out since Jan. 6 with an upper-body injury. Kaprizov, the Calder Trophy winner last season, had two assists in Friday's win over the Anaheim Ducks.
Minnesota has had as many games postponed (seven) as it has played since Dec. 12, but the players have tried to stay sharp during the downtime.
"Everyone wants to play games. The less you practice, the more games you play, the more fun it is," Matt Boldy said. "But I think we did a good job this week kind of getting what we needed to get done in practice and just going out there. There's an excitement, especially when you have those days off, you look forward to it even more."
The Wild and Avalanche have a rich rivalry based on three previous playoff clashes when the lower seed won each time. Minnesota won two of those, the last coming in 2014 when Darcy Kuemper backstopped the Wild to a Game 7 win.
Kuemper is now Colorado's top netminder and is coming off his first shutout of the season at Arizona on Saturday night. He is expected to start Monday.
--Field Level Media