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Oilers seek first win against Backstrom at Xcel

by Dan Myers /
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- With one long losing streak against the Minnesota Wild already in the history books, the Edmonton Oilers will look to break another tonight when the two Northwest Division rivals faceoff tonight at Xcel Energy Center.

The game between the Wild and Oilers will be their sixth and final game against one another this season.

In the last game between these two teams in St. Paul, the Oilers defeated the Wild 5-2 to win at Xcel Energy Center for the first time in 17 games. In goal for Minnesota that night was Josh Harding, not the starter for tonight's contest, Niklas Backstrom -- who has never lost to Edmonton in his home building (15-0-0).

The Oilers may receive a bit of help in that regard as winger Ales Hemsky skated this morning and coach Tom Renney said he's a game-time decision. Hemsky hasn't played since being sidelined with a sinus infection. He's missed the last two games.

Renney said Hemsky looked good and he would have an idea before pregame warm-ups whether Hemsky would be available.

"He thinks he can play," Renney said. "He'll take a nap this afternoon, come back to the rink and we'll see how he feels."

Having all the offense the Oilers can find would benefit them tonight against an offensively-challenged Minnesota team which has scored just 10 goals during its current 8-game losing streak. The Wild lost 2-1 in a shootout last night in Nashville and the team did not skate this morning.

Edmonton forward Jordan Eberle will look to continue his red-hot play of late. He's scored 5 goals over his last four games and has a five-game points streak heading into action tonight.

"Even when I hadn't scored in my first seven [games], I was feeling confident," Eberle said. "I knew then it was just a matter of time before the pucks started going in and you get on that roll."

He's also paced an Oiler power play that has scored 8 goals in the team's past seven games. Eberle has scored a power-play goal in 3 straight games, including one in a 4-1 win over the Wild in Edmonton last Thursday.

"Our power play, I think, has been pretty good all year," Eberle said. "We just seem to be clicking right now. And I think if we can get more shots, we can have even more success."

In terms of a game plan tonight, Renney said his team needs a good start to have success.

"They're going to show us right off the bat that they are here to play," Renney said.

-- Following last night's loss in Nashville, the Wild recalled forward Matt Kassian from AHL Houston and reassigned right wing Jon DiSalvatore. Kassian has played in two games for the Wild this season, posting 5 penalty minutes.

Kassian has 32 penalty minutes in Houston this season, scoring 2 goals in 19 games. The 6-foot-5, 247-pounder -- an Edmonton native -- will give Minnesota's lineup more of a physical look.

SETOGUCHI NEARING A RETURN? -- Forwards Devin Setoguchi (lower body), Guillaume Latendresse (head), Casey Wellman (wrist) and defenseman Clayton Stoner (groin) all skated this morning and are still considered day-to-day.

Setoguchi has missed the Wild's last 11 games -- with the team going 2-5-3 over that stretch, falling from the top team in the NHL to sixth best in the Western Conference.

"I'm feeling good, feeling better and better each day," Setoguchi said. "It's a matter of getting to the point where you don't think you're going to hurt yourself if you go out there and play, and getting your legs and your lungs back. But I'm definitely making strides."

Setoguchi said his goal all along has been to be back practicing by the new year. With 2012 just a couple of days away, that timetable is still intact, and Setoguchi said he could be back at practice as soon as tomorrow. That said, the team is in no hurry to rush him back.

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