NHL Network Showcase: 3 Storylines for Wild vs. Avalanche

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The Minnesota Wild play at the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday (3 p.m. ET; NHLN, ALT, FS-N, FS-WI, NHL.TV) in the “NHL Network Showcase presented by SAP.” It’s the sixth of eight games between the two Honda West Division teams this season.

The Wild (18-9-1) are third in the eight-team division, six points behind the first-place Vegas Golden Knights. Minnesota is 2-3-0 against Colorado, including a 5-1 loss Thursday that ended its five-game winning streak. The top four teams in the division reach the Stanley Cup Playoffs. 

The Avalanche (18-8-2) have won five straight games to move into second in the division, five points behind the Golden Knights. Their run began with the return of forward Nathan MacKinnon, who had missed the previous three games because of an upper-body injury. He has scored six points (four goals, two assists) in his past four games, including a goal and two assists against the Wild on Thursday.

Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar, the Calder Trophy winner voted as NHL rookie of the year last season, played Thursday after missing 11 games because of an upper-body injury.

Here are 3 storylines to keep an eye on:

 

Rookies money for Wild

Forward Kirill Kaprizov leads the Wild and all NHL rookies with 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) in 28 games, earning him the nickname “Dollar Dollar Bill Kirill’ from his teammates.  

Goalie Kaapo Kahkonen has a chance to win his 10th straight game, which would tie Hockey Hall of Famers Bill Durnan and Rogie Vachon for the third-longest streak by a rookie in NHL history. He is 12-4-0 with a 2.05 goals-against average, a .927 save percentage and two shutouts in 16 games (15 starts). 

 

Rocky Mountain workhorse 

Philipp Grubauer has played more minutes (1,420:06) than any goalie in the NHL and has emerged as a contender for the Vezina Trophy, voted as the best goalie in the NHL. He’s 17-7-0 with a 1.82 GAA and a .925 save percentage and his four shutouts are tied with Marc-Andre Fleury of the Golden Knights for the NHL lead. Grubauer has started 23 of the Avalanche’s 28 games with regular backup Pavel Francouz yet to play because of a lower-body injury. Grubauer has allowed eight goals on 92 shots (.913 save percentage) in four games against the Wild this season (3-1-0).

 

Fast start

It will be important for each team to score first. The Wild have scored an NHL-high 20 first-period goals since Feb. 18 and 30 this season, tied with the New York Islanders for fifth-most in the NHL. The Avalanche have won 16 games when scoring first, tied with the Golden Knights for the NHL leads. The Wild have won 15 games when scoring first, tied with the Carolina Hurricanes for third. 

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