With Patrick Roy as its backbone, the Colorado Avalanche was always among the class of the NHL, winning two Stanley Cups and going to four other conference finals during the Hall of Famer’s eight years in Colorado’s net.

But in recent years, the Avalanche fell dramatically, missing the playoffs in four of the past five years and so badly in three that the team was able to draft Nathan MacKinnon first overall in 2013, Gabriel Landeskog second overall in 2011 and Matt Duchene third overall in 2009.

Add Ryan O’Reilly 33rd overall in 2009, and that provided a firm foundation for Colorado to rebuild fast and furiously. Then, you install the passionate Roy as coach, and it’s simple to see why many pundits felt the Avalanche could be the Central Division’s X-factor this season.

Now, few would have predicted Roy’s Avalanche would reel off a 12-1 start and sit atop the NHL at one point, but when you consider the depth of Colorado’s star-studded forward group and Roy and infamous goalie guru Francois Alaire coaching netminders Semyon Varlamov and former Conn Smythe Trophy winner Jean-Sebastien Giguere, it’s easy to see why Colorado is sitting at 17-6 — tied with the Wild with 34 points in three fewer games.

This weekend in a home-and-home that begins Friday in St. Paul, the Wild will get to see for the first time this new-look Avalanche team — the former Northwest Division rival/now Central Division rival that the Wild’s actually had the number of in recent years. The Wild is 31-11-5 against Colorado since March 5, 2006, including 12-2-2 in its past 16 in Denver since Jan. 24, 2008. That included last year’s must-win season finale that thrust the Wild into its first postseason for the first time since 2008.

“It’s fun to play these really good teams we haven’t seen yet,” said defenseman Erik Johnson, the Bloomington native who got to have Thanksgiving dinner at his parents’ home Thursday night. “It’s a great measuring stick for us and probably a great measuring stick for the Wild, too, to play a team like us.