Preview: Minnesota at Colorado
When: 9:00 PM ET, Thursday, October 8, 2015
Where: Pepsi Center, Denver, Colorado
After going from first to worst in the Central Division, the Colorado Avalanche look to begin their climb back to the top when they host the Minnesota Wild on Thursday in the 2015-16 season opener for both teams. Colorado captured its first division title in 10 seasons in 2013-14 behind first-year coach Patrick Roy but was unable to stay afloat last campaign, plummeting to the bottom of arguably the best division in the league despite recording 90 points.
The Avalanche hope a blockbuster trade with Buffalo that landed youngsters Mikhail Grigorenko at forward and defenseman Nikita Zadorov, along with a bounce-back season from 2014 Calder Trophy winner Nathan MacKinnon, will help them return to the postseason. Minnesota, which ousted Colorado in their first-round matchup in 2014, made it two straight postseasons in which it took down the Central champion when it knocked off St. Louis in six games last spring. The Wild still were unable to solve Chicago, however, as they were eliminated by the Blackhawks for the third consecutive postseason. Minnesota returns practically the exact same lineup from last season but will have Vezina Trophy finalist Devan Dubnyk in net for an entire campaign after signing him to a six-year, $26 million contract in July.
TV: 9 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network
ABOUT THE WILD (2014-15: 46-28-8, 4TH IN CENTRAL): Minnesota will begin the campaign without Justin Fontaine, as the right wing was placed on injured reserve with an upper-body injury. The 27-year-old recorded a career-high 31 points last season but scored only nine goals after netting 13 as a rookie in 2013-14. Ruslan Fedotenko, who last played in the NHL in 2012-13 with Philadelphia, failed to earn a roster spot and will start the season with Iowa of the American Hockey League.
ABOUT THE AVALANCHE (2014-15: 39-31-12, 7TH IN CENTRAL): Jack Skille notched only two points in five preseason contests during his tryout, but it apparently was enough as the right wing was signed to a one-year contract on Tuesday. The 28-year-old, who was drafted seventh overall by Chicago in 2005, has collected 30 goals and 31 assists in 239 NHL games with three different teams. Veteran forward Curtis Glencross did not impress during his tryout, however, as he was released after also failing to make Toronto’s roster this preseason.
1. Mike Reilly, Minnesota’s top defensive prospect, was assigned to Iowa on Tuesday.
2. MacKinnon registered 14 goals and 38 points in 2014-15 after notching 24 and 63 as a rookie.
3. The Wild won four of their five meetings with the Avalanche last season.
PREDICTION: Avalanche 3, Wild 2