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TV: FS-Ohio, FS-North
LAST 10: Columbus 3-6-1; Minnesota 3-5-2
Season Series: It's the last of four meetings. Minnesota won the first two by the same 4-2 margin, but Columbus beat the Wild 3-1 on Tuesday at Nationwide Arena.
Big Story: The struggling Wild desperately need a win to keep pace with the host of teams vying for the eighth spot in the Western Conference. A home game against the last-place Blue Jackets is one they cannot afford to lose.
Blue Jackets: Columbus lost six straight games between Jan. 19 and Feb. 1, but the Blue Jackets collected back-to-back victories for only the second time all season when they defeated Anaheim in overtime and then beat the Wild. Their brief winning streak ended Thursday with a 4-2 loss to Dallas,
While others may be on the move as the trade deadline approaches, the Blue Jackets signed veteran forward Vinny Prospal to a one-year contract extension Wednesday. He has been a model of consistency in a season of turmoil for the Blue Jackets.
Wild: Minnesota was once 20-7-3 and atop the NHL standings, but little did they know what would be the cause of their fall had already arrived. The Wild won the first four games of a five-game road trip, but that was the start of 19 games in 27 away from Xcel Energy Center. Between Dec. 13 and Jan. 24, Minnesota went winless on the road -- a stretch of 11 contests.
Even with the tough travel over, the Wild were outclassed Thursday night by Vancouver at the X in a 5-2 loss.
"We flat-out stink the last two months. We stink," coach Mike Yeo said after the loss in the opener of a four-game homestand. "And we come in and we don't have a good enough effort from too many guys. That's concerning. ... We have too many guys that aren't ready to pay a price."
Who's Hot: Derick Brassard had a terrible start to the season with only five points in his first 24 games for Columbus, but he's got five in the past three contests and has six goals and 15 points in his past 22 games.
Injury Report: This has been a season chock full of injuries for the Blue Jackets, and even some recent solid play has been tempered by the loss of two more healthy bodies. Defenseman Marc Methot is now out with a broken jaw, so the Blue Jackets are without four of their top six on the blue line (James Wisniewski, Radek Martinek, Nikita Nikitin and Methot). Forward Jared Boll (broken foot) joined Kristian Huselius and Mark Letestu among the walking wounded up front. … Minnesota got captain Mikko Koivu back from injury, but defenseman Clayton Stoner (leg) went on injured reserve Thursday. The Wild are also without forwards Guillaume Latendresse and Pierre-Marc Bouchard.
Stat Pack: Columbus has struggled in many categories, but maybe no better indicator of the Jackets' woes is the poor goaltending at even strength. The Blue Jackets are 16th in the League in shots for per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 (28.6) and 15th in shots against (29.7), but they have allowed the 29th most goals per 60 minutes (2.8) and have yielded 33 more tallies at even strength than they've scored (118-85), the worst ratio in the NHL.
Puck Drop: Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom has struggled in shootouts throughout his career, but especially this season. He has stopped only 10 of 22 shots in shootouts this season, and he has a 15-28 career record.
"We've tried everything," goalie coach Bob Mason said. "We've done video, verbal scouting reports, watched video of him. Sometimes too much information is just too much. Sometimes you're thinking a guy might do something and he changes the book on you."