OILERS (17-22-7) at WILD (25-18-3)
TV: SNET-W, FS-WI, FS-N+
Last 10: Edmonton 1-9-0; Minnesota 4-5-1
Big story: For as much as the Wild have struggled in April, they were on the verge of qualifying for the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs if the Dallas Stars beat the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday. Failing that, a win either Friday against the Oilers or Saturday at the Colorado Avalanche does the trick. Minnesota lost eight of its first 11 games of April, but faces an Edmonton team that has dropped nine of its last 10 games.
Oilers: Edmonton will miss the playoffs for the seventh straight season following its run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006, but has been steadily improving its position in the standings over the past few campaigns. The club was last in the NHL with 62 points in 2010-11 but then had a 74-point effort to finish in 14th place in the Western Conference last season and can now end up finishing 2012-13 at 12th in the West. The Oilers seek to break a three-game losing streak with just two goals scored over that span.
"We're being tested right now in the severest of ways with the losing month like this. We should all expect more from each other," coach Ralph Kruger said following his team's 4-1 loss to the visiting Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday.
Wild: What a difference a game makes. Despite the cold streak in April, all the Wild needed was a hard-fought 2-1 victory over the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday to help secure their place in the playoff picture. Now it's a win-and-they're-in situation as they try to end a four-year playoff drought.
Minnesota clung to the 2-1 lead in the closing seconds Tuesday and needed a tremendous lunging save by goalie Niklas Backstrom on Kings defenseman Slava Voynov with 11 seconds remaining in regulation to earn the victory.
"You just have to stick with it. We talked before: There's going to be ups and downs," captain Mikko Koivu said.
Who's hot: For the Oilers, forward Jordan Eberle has totaled nine points (3g, 6a) over his last nine games against the Wild. … Forward Zach Parise has two goals and two assists over his last five games for the Wild and can establish a three-game point streak if he reaches the score sheet Friday.
Injury report: Oilers defenseman Ryan Whitney injured his leg in the game against the Blackhawks and is questionable for Friday. Defenseman Theo Peckham (flu) and forward Ales Hemsky (foot) are doubtful. Forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is out for the season with a shoulder injury. Forward Lennart Petrell (leg) and Andy Sutton (knee) are out indefinitely. … For the Wild, forwards Jason Pominville (concussion) and Mike Rupp (lower body) are questionable. Goaltender Josh Harding (illness) was activated off injured reserve earlier this week. He last played for Minnesota on Feb. 7. Forward Dany Heatley is out for the season with a shoulder injury.
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