Wild-Avalanche Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated March 15, 2013
Zach Parise and Ryan Suter are clicking at the same time, and it's leading to good things for the Minnesota Wild. Minnesota hopes its pair of $98-million acquisitions can keep it going Saturday as the club seeks its second win over the Colorado Avalanche in three days. The Wild are 8-4-0 since a 6-6-2 start and have won three of their past four, beating visiting Colorado 5-3 in the opener of this home-and-home set Thursday. Parise wasted no time in making an impact for his new team with nine points in the first five games before slowing down with three in the next 12. Suter's start was more measured, with nine points in his first 17 contests. The duo, though, has combined for 21 points over the last nine games - including three assists from Suter and two from Parise on Thursday - with Minnesota going 6-3-0 over that stretch. One goal in the second period Thursday embodied almost exactly what the team hoped for when it signed Parise and Suter to identical 13-year contracts in the summer. Suter's give-and-go pass found Parise, who then set up Mikko Koivu - the team leader with 22 points - for a one-timer goal. "That was a very entertaining play to watch by three extremely skilled players," coach Mike Yeo said. Suter's playmaking impact as a defenseman has been particularly significant for the Wild (14-10-2). He ranks second among NHL defensemen with 20 assists in 26 games. Jared Spurgeon led Minnesota defensemen with 20 assists over 70 games last season. "There's a huge impact in so many areas," Yeo said. "Certainly the assists is the first one that you're going to look towards. But again, the leadership, and just the poise that he has in certain situations, especially late in games ... that sort of thing is contagious for the rest of the group." Colorado (10-12-4) knocked off Chicago and San Jose in back-to-back games last week but hasn't been able to carry the momentum, falling 4-0 at home to Edmonton on Tuesday before the loss to the Wild. Everything seemingly fell apart in the second period Thursday, as Colorado surrendered 19 shots resulting in three Minnesota goals. "We talked about making sure we are hard on the body, finishing our checks, managing the puck well - all things we got away from in the second period," coach Joe Sacco told the league's official website. "We hung Varly (goaltender Semyon Varlamov) out to dry. You can't keep doing that to your goaltender and expect to win games." Rookie left wing Jason Zucker could return for the Wild after he was held out due to the effects of a blindside check by Anaheim's Corey Perry in a 2-1 loss on Tuesday. Zucker is expected to make the trip, but Yeo said putting him back in the lineup could be difficult after Pierre-Marc Bouchard played well in his place and recorded an assist against the Avalanche. Koivu, who also had an empty-netter Thursday, has eight points over his last five games against the Avalanche. Minnesota has won seven of nine in Colorado.
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