WILD (16-14-4) at BLUE JACKETS (17-15-3)
TV: TSN 2 (HD), VERSUS (HD)
Last 10: Minnesota 5-3-2; Columbus 3-5-2
Season series: Third of four meetings this season. Each team has recorded a 3-2 win in enemy territory -- RJ Umberger's shorthanded goal proved decisive for the Blue Jackets in Minnesota on Oct. 16, while Cal Clutterbuck had the tiebreaking score for the Wild in Columbus on Nov. 6.
Big story: Neither team came out of the holiday break in grand fashion, dropping 4-1 decisions Sunday night. Both the Wild and Blue Jackets are trying to make up ground in the Western Conference playoff race, and this is another opportunity to draw closer as the new year approaches.
Wild: Despite entering on a three-game winning streak, Minnesota continued to have a tough time figuring out what to do with West-leading Detroit, which has had its way at the Xcel Energy Center to the tune of an 8-2-1 record in the last 11 games there. The Red Wings put two goals on the board in each of the first two periods, and only Brent Burns' power-play goal with 3:40 remaining kept the Wild from being blanked.
"They just kept coming. It took us a long time just to put up a fight," Minnesota center John Madden said.
Blue Jackets: Heading into the third period, Columbus found itself within striking distance in Chicago, having allowed just a goal to Tomas Kopecky seven minutes into the game. But Patrick Sharp sandwiched a pair of goals around one by Dave Bolland in the final 20 minutes, and the Blue Jackets were unable to answer until Derick Brassard struck on a man advantage with 2:26 remaining. By that point, the Blackhawks were cruising.
"I thought we did lots of good things," coach Scott Arniel said. "I thought we should have been rewarded in the first and even the second. But you can't just be close in this League. When it's a 1-0 game we need to find a way to get it evened up when they give us opportunities and we didn't."
Who's hot: Burns now has 10 goals and 6 power-play goals this season, and he has 4 points in as many games for the Wild. ... Tom Sestito has 1 goal and 2 assists during a three-game points streak for the Blue Jackets.
Stat pack: Fifteen of 18 Wild skaters were minus-1 on Sunday, while Mikko Koivu, Chuck Kobasew and Andrew Brunette were even. ... The Blue Jackets are glad to be home after falling to 0-5-2 in their last seven road games and going 396 minutes without a lead during that stretch.
Puck drop: Fans were predictably displeased with Minnesota's showing on Sunday and let the home team know it.
"We're frustrated," center Matt Cullen said. "We've been playing some good hockey, and to take a step back like that, especially in front of a great crowd, that's all fair game. We should have probably been booing ourselves."