Oilers-Wild Preview

The Minnesota Wild are on the verge of elimination from playoff

contention. A matchup with the Edmonton Oilers could help them

stave off that fate for at least a little while.

The Wild look to improve their slim postseason chances Thursday

night when they seek their fifth win in as many tries against the

Oilers this season and 16th straight at home in the series.

A team-record eight-game losing streak, which the 11th-place

Wild (36-32-8) snapped with a 3-2 shootout win over St. Louis on

Wednesday, has left them all but certain to miss the playoffs for

the third straight season.

“It’s just good for the guys to get a win,” forward Eric

Nystrom said after Minnesota matched a club mark with its 19th road

victory. “It’s really hard on us. You leave the rink and you want

to leave the game there, but it just dwells on you. It’s good to

feel good about ourselves.”

The Wild have struggled at home lately, dropping four straight

and six of seven, but they should have plenty of confidence with

the Oilers (23-42-11) coming to town. Since a 2-1 loss to Edmonton

on Jan. 16, 2007, Minnesota has outscored the Oilers 54-19 while

winning the last 15 matchups in St. Paul.

The Wild, who hold a 22-4 scoring edge in the third period and

overtime during that stretch, recorded three third-period goals in

the last meeting, a 4-1 home win Feb. 22.

Edmonton has totaled six goals in its four losses this season to

Minnesota, which has gone 9-2-1 in the last 12 overall


The Oilers have lost 10 in a row, their worst skid since a

13-game slide Dec. 31, 2009-Jan. 30, 2010. With leading scorers Sam

Gagner, Taylor Hall and Alex Hemsky out for the rest of the season

with injuries, Edmonton has managed a stunning 11 goals and gone 3

for 40 on the power play during its losing streak.

“Our guys are trying, and there are ways to score regardless of

the experience on the ice or the skill level of your team,” said

coach Tom Renney, whose team was outshot 18-7 in the first period

of a 2-0 defeat to Los Angeles on Tuesday. “We still have an

ability to score, and we need to continue to do those things better

incumbent with any NHL team.”

The Oilers have scored four times during a six-game road


Nikolai Khabibulin, 0-5-1 with a 3.33 goals-against average in

his last six starts, has posted a 3.81 GAA in losing all four

matchups with the Wild this season.

Minnesota’s Niklas Backstrom is 1-8-1 with a 3.85 GAA in his

last 10 starts, but he could get the nod Thursday as he is 17-2-1

with a 1.73 GAA and four shutouts against Edmonton. All four of

those shutouts came at home, where Backstrom is 13-0-0 with a 1.15

GAA versus the Oilers. He made 20 saves Feb. 22.

Minnesota last won two straight during a 3-0-0 stretch Feb.