Minnesota and Colorado have developed a rivalry through a trio of tough playoff series dating back to 2003. Two Game 7s -- both won by the Wild on the road -- and a six-game series mixed in the middle have amped up the animosity between the teams.
So it seems only fitting they are playing Tuesday night in St. Paul, Minn., with a lot at stake. The Wild, coming off of a 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Islanders on Sunday night, are right behind Arizona for the second wild card and three points ahead of the Avalanche.
A regulation win by Minnesota could deliver a serious blow to Colorado's chances of returning to the postseason. With 10 games left, the Avalanche (31-29-12) have 74 points and need every one they can get down the stretch.
Colorado has been up and down of late. Four of its last five games have been shutouts, with the Avalanche winning two of those. The latest came Sunday at home in a 3-0 win against the New Jersey Devils, with Philipp Grubauer getting his third shutout of the season, all of which have come in the last month.
There was no time to celebrate. Immediately after the win, Grubauer was focusing on the last 10 games.
"We need wins and that was a good step in the right direction," he said. "You can't hope for another team to lose for us to get in. You got to keep playing the right way and every shift for every guy matters."
Colorado's next four are against teams in the wild-card hunt. It begins with a struggling Minnesota team that has lost four of its last five -- two of those after regulation -- and has slipped down in the standings.
The Wild missed chances to put some distance between them and the team's they're battling.
"The lost point hurts," forward Zach Parise said after Sunday's loss to New York. "It's that time of the year where you've got to get them. But at the same time, that just feels probably as well as we've played in a while."
Minnesota (34-30-9) will no doubt focus its attention on Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen. MacKinnon had a goal and an assist on Sunday and now has 91 points (37 goals, 54 assists) to become just the second Avalanche player to record consecutive 90-point seasons.
With captain Gabriel Landeskog still out and the grind of the season taking its toll, Colorado made a move on their off day Monday, recalling forward A.J. Greer from the Colorado Eagles of the AHL.
"We've got some guys that are banged up so I want to make sure that we're covered there," coach Jared Bednar told reporters at Avalanche headquarters on Monday.
Bednar said Landeskog's recovery time for his upper-body injury remains 4-6 weeks, which would put his return around the time the playoffs would start. It will take some work for Colorado to still be playing then but the team is not giving up hope.
"We know if we can string together 10 good games here and put some points together, we can get in," defenseman Tyson Barrie said Sunday.