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Wild Hope That Young Goalies Can Withstand Avalanche

(Sports Network) – The Minnesota Wild could be without their top two goaltenders this evening when they try to avoid a third straight loss in a matchup with the Colorado Avalanche at Xcel Energy Center.

No. 1 goaltender Niklas Backstrom hasn’t played since Dec. 31 due to a hip injury, with Jose Theodore stepping into his role as the starter. Theodore won his first four starts after Backstrom went out, yielding a goal or less in three of those games, but has been tagged for eight goals in back-to-back losses to the Stars and Predators.

Theodore was pulled in the third period of Tuesday’s 5-1 loss in Nashville, yielding four goals on 25 shots. Anton Khudobin spelled him off the bench and stopped four of the five shots he faced.

Mikko Koivu scored the lone goal for the Wild, who are three points behind the second-place Avalanche in the Northwest Division.

"We’ve got to manage the puck better," Wild head coach Todd Richards said. "We just need to play fast."

The 34-year-old Theodore, signed this season after Josh Harding suffered a season-ending knee injury, was unable to practice on Thursday due to a sore hip and Richards said that Khudobin will likely start tonight. The Wild recalled Matt Hackett from their AHL affiliate in Houston to serve as the backup tonight. Hackett, a third-round draft pick in 2009, has never seen action in an NHL game.

Khudobin is in line for just the second start of his NHL career and first versus Colorado. The 24-year-old, who made his season debut on Tuesday, made his first start on Feb. 6 of last season, halting 38 shots in a 2-1 victory over Philadelphia.

Colorado will hope to take advantage of Minnesota’s goaltending issues after getting shut out, 4-0, by Chicago on Wednesday. Peter Budaj got the start in net and made 27 saves.

The Avalanche have lost five of their last seven and are just 3-6-2 since a six-game win streak from Dec. 10-19. Though they are still eighth overall in the Western Conference, the Avs have fallen 12 points back of the first-place Canucks in the Northwest Division.

Colorado was shut out for the second time in less than a week and for the third time in its last 11 games. The club will likely go back to Craig Anderson in net tonight, but he is just 1-4-2 with a 2.94 goals-against average in his career versus the Wild.

Anderson did not make it out of the second period in his last start in this series, yielding three goals on 14 shots in a 3-1 home setback on Dec. 23. Budaj made 18 saves in relief.

Colorado posted a 7-4 home win over Minnesota back on Nov. 27, but has still lost seven of nine and nine of its last 12 versus the Wild. The Avs have also lost nine of their last 11 at Xcel Energy Center.

Minnesota’s Matt Cullen has three goals and an assist in the two meetings as well as eight goals and three helpers in his last seven versus the Avalanche. That includes a hat trick on Feb. 22, 2009 while with Carolina, but the forward hasn’t scored in 10 games since his two-goal effort versus the Avs on Dec. 23.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.