Last 10: Minnesota 3-5-2; Detroit 7-2-1
Season Series: Fourth and final meeting of the season. The teams haven't met since Nov. 1, when the Wild got a Mikko Koivu goal with one minute left in regulation and a Devin Setoguchi power-play goal at 1:33 of overtime for a 2-1 victory. Josh Harding, who blanked the Red Wings 1-0 four days earlier, was again in net. The two losses were part of a six-game skid for Detroit, which did beat Minnesota 3-2 in overtime on a Johan Franzen power-play goal in their initial matchup on Oct. 15.
Big Story: In the four months since the Wild and Red Wings last met, so much has changed. Minnesota surged to the Western Conference lead and held it through most of December, but the second half has brought a precipitous fall in the standings. On the other hand, Detroit overcame its early struggles to go on an NHL-record 23-game home winning streak and is battling it out with Vancouver and division rival St. Louis for the No. 1 seed heading into the final five weeks.
Wild: If it wasn't for the fact Minnesota desperately needs two points out of its games right now, Thursday night's 5-4 shootout loss in Montreal would certainly qualify as a moral victory. Trailing by three goals with just under four minutes to play, the offensively-challenged Wild came storming back as Matt Kassian, Dany Heatley and Setoguchi all scored to force overtime, the Setoguchi goal coming with 9.8 seconds left in regulation. But they couldn't get a puck past Carey Price in overtime or the shootout and had to settle for the single point.
"Kass gave us life, and we kept on going," Heatley said in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "It's tough we lost in the shootout."
Red Wings: Staring down a fourth straight defeat, Detroit fell behind in the third period at Columbus on Tuesday when Derek MacKenzie beat Joey MacDonald for a shorthanded goal at the 2:13 mark. The Red Wings quickly woke up, though. On the same man-advantage situation, Niklas Kronwall evened the score at 3:43 and later in the third Henrik Zetterberg and Jan Mursak scored 49 seconds apart to give them control in what became a 5-2 win. Valtteri Filppula capped the run of four unanswered goals, while MacDonald finished with 28 saves.
"We really needed a win," Zetterberg said, noting the absence of stars like Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk from the lineup. "We had a few bodies out. The guys that came out did a really good job."
Who's Hot: Kassian scored twice for the Wild on Thursday, his first goals in 21 NHL games. Nick Johnson picked up 3 assists. … Zetterberg has 1 goal and 4 assists in his last two games for the Red Wings. Filppula has consecutive games with a goal and an assist. McDonald has won seven straight starts, the first six while No. 1 goalie Jimmy Howard was injured.
Injury Report: Minnesota lost goalie Niklas Backstrom less than three minutes into Thursday's game with a lower-body injury. Koivu (shoulder) is on injured reserve along with forwards Guillaume Latendresse (post-concussion symptoms), Jarod Palmer (upper body) and Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion/groin) and defensemen Clayton Stoner (lower body) and Mike Lundin (lower body). … Lidstrom missed Tuesday's game with a swollen right ankle, while fellow Detroit defenseman Kyle Quincey was also out due to a sore groin. Quincey skated Thursday and is expected to be in the lineup, while Lidstrom is possible. Datsyuk is recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, while defenseman Jonathan Ericsson is expected to miss the next month with a broken wrist.
Stat Pack: Harding, who seems a lock to start Friday with Backstrom ailing, has a 1.30 goals-against average and .965 save percentage in going 2-0-1 against the Red Wings this season. … Kronwall is fourth among NHL defensemen with 13 goals, two behind leader and fellow Swede Erik Karlsson.
Puck Drop: Mursak's goal against Columbus was his first of the season and just his second in 31 games over the past two seasons. A broken ankle in training camp set back his progress, but coach Mike Babcock is a big fan of the 24-year-old Slovenian prospect.
"We thought he was going to be a big part of things," Babcock said in the Detroit Free Press. "We think he's going to be a real good player for us over time. He can really shoot the puck. He scores every day in practice. You don't score in practice and not translate into the game eventually."