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.