WILD (7-6-2) at OILERS (6-6-3)
TV: FS-N, FS-WI, SNET-W
Last 10: Minnesota 5-4-1; Edmonton 3-4-3
Season series: First of four for the Northwest Division rivals. Last season, the Wild took two of three in both the Xcel Energy Center and Rexall Place, that coming off a six-game sweep the year before. They are 27-8-2 versus the Oilers over the last six seasons.
Big story: One point separates the two teams in the Northwest, and although the first-place Canucks have hardly opened up any distance, holding a four-point lead on the Wild, both teams are on the outside of the playoff picture in 10th and 11th positions respectively. Neither team has been lighting the lamp with much frequency, the Wild matching the Kings for lowest scoring output with 33 goals, the Oilers only slightly better with 36.
Wild: They do fine when they score more than once (5-1-2). On Sunday, Dany Heatley scored for the first time in nine games and 21-year-old Jason Zucker picked up his first career goal in his NHL debut. Add Torrey Mitchell's first goal of the season and the Wild were able to come from behind on the Red Wings 3-2, giving them a 3-1-1 record in their last five games.
"It's big. I'm not going to sit here and say this makes our season," coach Mike Yeo said. "We've still got a lot of work to do and we're focused on continuing to get better as a group. But this is huge."
Oilers: For a team that's been struggling like the Oilers have, it's important to pick up wins wherever possible, especially at home, and especially before a nine-game road trip that will take them to mid-March. To do that, they need to finish.
They came back from a 1-0 deficit Tuesday against the Kings and continued to compete most of the way from there, but Jeff Carter snatched the game away with 49.6 seconds left, giving the Oilers a painful 2-1 loss. It also puts them at 1-2 on the five-game home stand that ends Saturday versus the Coyotes.
"Going on the road for nine more, you want to be over .500," Taylor Hall told the Edmonton Journal. "It puts us in a tough spot to win our last two games against good teams.
"We're going to have to show up every night. We play two good games and then we have a stinker in this one. We're going to have to play better and stop leaning on our goalie so much."
Who's hot: Wild point leaders Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Dany Heatley have each gotten on the board in their last two games. Sam Gagner scored the lone goal against the Kings and has five points in his last four games, Hall has six points in his last five.
Injury report: Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom (flu) would be missed if he's not ready to go. He's 22-3-1 versus the Oilers with a 1.81 goals-against average. Forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard and defenseman Justin Falk joined Backstrom in sick bay Sunday. Goalie Josh Harding (multiple sclerosis symptoms) was placed on injured reserve last week. Defenseman Tyler Cuma (foot) is still weeks away. … Oilers forward Ryan Jones (eye) had been cleared for contact last week and could be back in the lineup by the end of the home stand. Forwards Anton Lander (foot) and Shawn Horcoff (hand) are not expected back until March.
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