Minnesota remains in a battle for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs. The Wild's edge over the Edmonton Oilers at Xcel Energy Center may help their cause.
Losers of two straight, the Wild look to extend their six-game home winning streak against the Oilers when the Northwest Division rivals conclude a home-and-home series Wednesday night.
|The Wild seek to extend their six-game home winning streak against the Oilers when the two teams play at Xcel Energy Center tonight. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jimmy Jeong)
Minnesota (40-28-9) is in a battle atop a division in which all five teams still have a chance to finish first. At the bottom of the Northwest is Edmonton (39-33-5), which is in ninth place in the Western Conference.
The Oilers beat the Wild, 5-3, on Monday night in the series opener to move within three points of eighth-place Colorado. Edmonton, though, hasn't won at Minnesota since Jan. 16, 2007, when it earned a 2-1 victory.
Minnesota, which led the Northwest by one point going into Tuesday's games, will likely need to finish atop the division to secure home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Wild are returning home after losing the final two games of a four-game road trip, finishing 1-2-1 on the swing. They have lost three of four overall and given up five goals in each of their last two games.
Goals from Nick Schultz, Sean Hill and Todd Fedoruk weren't enough for Minnesota on Monday. The Wild also went 0-for-4 with the man advantage for the second straight game even though Eric Belanger and Mark Parrish were back on the ice.
Belanger, with 13 goals and 24 assists in 70 games, made his return after suffering a broken toe March 7 and assisted on Hill's goal. The veteran center has not found the back of the net in seven games versus Edmonton this season, but he has eight assists in those contests.
|The Edmonton Oilers are three points out of a playoff spot with just five games remaining. (AP Photo/The Canadian Press, John Ulan)
Parrish was in the lineup after being a healthy scratch the two previous games. He recorded an assist on Schultz's goal for his first point in nine games.
The ninth-year forward has four goals and three assists in seven games this season against the Oilers, who have outscored the Wild 9-5 in winning the last two meetings.
The Oilers have scored 20 goals in their last three wins overall. Edmonton, trying to make a playoff run, has won six of seven and 12 of 15.
"The bottom line is that it could be anybody that falls," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said of the West playoff race. "These are tough games. If somebody goes on a stretch in the last five games where they only win a game, then even the top teams are vulnerable. It's unlikely but this whole thing has smacked of unlikeliness right from the outset. Something strange is going to happen."
Andrew Cogliano had two goals Monday, and Curtis Glencross, Dustin Penner and Kyle Brodziak also scored for Edmonton.
Cogliano, a rookie center, has 11 goals and 13 assists in his last 29 games, and three goals and an assist in his last three versus the Wild. His strong play has helped spark the Oilers' surge.
"We have a lot of young guys and they are playing unbelievable," Edmonton goaltender Dwayne Roloson said. "They are playing like veterans. It's a breath of fresh air when we come in here and they are all excited."
Minnesota is 4-2-1 against Edmonton this season. This is the teams' final regular-season meeting of 2007-08.