After months of chasing down the top teams in the Central Division, the Colorado Avalanche have an opportunity to move into first place.
Colorado is 9-1-0 in its last 10 games to overtake Dallas in the standings and now sets its sights on the division-leading Minnesota Wild. The teams will meet on Wednesday night in Denver night to wrap up the three-game season series.
The Avalanche (44-23-6, 94 points) won the first two games in Minnesota and would jump over the Wild in the standings with a win Wednesday.
Minnesota (43-22-9, 95 points) has been surging in its last 10 games, going 7-1-2 to take the top spot in the Central Division. Wednesday night's game might prove to be more important for the Wild than Colorado considering their next three games -- a home-and-home against Vegas and a trip to Pittsburgh to play a hungry Penguins team.
Minnesota has been riding the incredible streak winger Matt Boldy is having lately. He notched his second hat trick in five games in the win over Seattle on Monday night and has nine goals in that five-game span.
What matters most to Boldy is winning the division to avoid playing Colorado or the Stars in the first round of the playoffs.
"We want to be first," Boldy said. "We want to win every game. To kind of have it start coming all together in a way and playing good hockey, it's exciting."
Boldy has stepped up in the absence of Kirill Kaprizov, who has not played since suffering a lower-body injury on March 8. Defenseman John Klingberg (upper body) has missed three straight games and Ryan Reaves left Monday's game with an upper-body injury.
There has been no update on Reaves' status for Wednesday.
The Avalanche understand injuries and riding the hot hand down the stretch. Colorado has played the whole season without captain Gabriel Landeskog (knee) and defenseman Josh Manson (lower body) has missed significant time, but others have stepped up.
Nathan MacKinnon can't match Boldy's goal production of late, but he has at least one point in 19 straight home games and is five points from the first 100-point season of his career. He has 24 points in March, second most in the NHL behind Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid -- who both have 25 -- and has played great down the stretch.
"The more important the game, the more he's going to show up for his team. It's just another level of determination," Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said. "It's probably hard to maintain or stay up through the course of 82 games, but when the games get big, he's the guy that is going to show up for you."
MacKinnon had a goal and an assist in Monday's 5-1 win at Anaheim, which capped a back-to-back set and a move into second place.
"We've been able to collect some points," Colorado defenseman Bowen Byram said. "We're in a tight race, so it means a lot."
Colorado has a chance to gain on both division rivals this week. Dallas comes to town Saturday night and a sweep of those two games, ahead of two games in San Jose next week, would put the reigning champions in control of the division.
--Field Level Media