Avs looking for advantage as series shifts to Denver

The Sports Network

4/14/2008 11:38:08 AM

(Sports Network) - The Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild will meet for a pivotal playoff test in Denver tonight, as the Avs host Game 3 of the best-of- seven Western Conference quarterfinals at the Pepsi Center.

The clubs split the first two games of the series in St. Paul and both tests were decided after regulation. Colorado notched a 3-2 decision in the opener on Wednesday, but the Northwest Division champion Wild won by the same score Friday night at Xcel Energy Center.

Keith Carney scored Friday's game-winning goal 1:14 into overtime to knot the series at one win apiece.

In the extra session, Carney collected the puck at the left circle and fired a slap shot that deflected off Avs defenseman Ruslan Salei's skate before veering past Jose Theodore.

Pavol Demitra and Mikko Koivu also scored for the third-seeded Wild, while Niklas Backstrom made 24 saves to earn the victory.

Peter Forsberg registered a goal and an assist for the sixth-seeded Avalanche, while Theodore allowed three goals on 31 shots in defeat.

Friday's game actually marked the fourth straight playoff meeting between these clubs that ended in overtime, with each contest decided by a 3-2 margin. Avs captain Joe Sakic provided the game-winner in the series' opener.

On the injury front, Wild defenseman Nick Schultz has begun skating with the team after undergoing an appendectomy early last week. Schultz, one of Minnesota's top defensive defenseman, is still not able to partake in physical drills and it's uncertain when he will be able to make a full return.

Despite the gap in the conference seeding between the Wild and Avs, Colorado actually finished just three points behind Minnesota for second place in the always competitive Northwest.

Overall, the Wild went 5-2-1 versus the Avalanche during the 2007-08 regular season.

This is the second-ever playoff series between these clubs. Minnesota won the only other postseason meeting, shocking the Avs in seven games of a 2003 conference quarterfinal series.

The Wild are in the playoffs for the third straight year, while Colorado is back after a one-year absence last season that ended a string of 11 straight postseason appearances.

Colorado was one of the best home teams in the NHL this season, as it posted a 27-12-2 record at the Pepsi Center. The Wild were just 19-17-5 away from Minnesota.

Game 4 of this series will also take place in Denver on Tuesday.