Minnesota Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom is enjoying another big season - and he hasn't even faced the Edmonton Oilers yet.
Backstrom looks to remain perfect in his career against the Oilers on Thursday as the Wild look for their eighth straight home win against their Northwest Division rivals.
Edmonton has six regulation defeats and one overtime loss in its last seven trips to the Xcel Energy Center. The Oilers have managed only eight total goals during that skid, and Backstrom is a major reason why.
The All-Star goaltender has shut out the Oilers three times in seven home starts, and is 9-0-0 with a 1.64 goals-against average in his career versus them. Backstrom, though, has been pulled in two of his last three starts against Edmonton - the only two he failed to win.
Backstrom has proven slightly more vulnerable at home this season, posting a 2.43 GAA there compared to a 1.87 GAA on the road.
Minnesota and Edmonton have identical 21-18-3 records, and both currently sit outside the top eight teams in the Western Conference for a playoff berth. The Wild and Oilers will play six times over the remainder of the season.
Backstrom has won four of his last five starts overall, including a 6-3 victory over Phoenix on Tuesday in the opener of a three-game homestand as Minnesota matched its highest scoring effort of the season. Marc-Andre Bergeron returned after missing 10 games due to a knee injury and scored 46 seconds after the opening faceoff as the Wild avoided a third straight loss.
"That was a nice welcome back. I guess I'll take it," said Bergeron, who ripped a slap shot from the left point for his fourth goal of the season.
Owen Nolan, Andrew Brunette and Cal Clutterbuck each added a goal and an assist for the Wild. Brunette snapped an 11-game personal goal drought.
"It's a good win," Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said. "We still have a lot of work to do before that break. So we'll try to stay focused and stay the best we can."
Former Wild goalie Dwayne Roloson has lost his last five starts at Minnesota - all against Backstrom. Roloson, though, was sharp in his second straight win for Edmonton on Tuesday, finishing with 36 saves - 19 coming in the first period - during a 5-2 win at Washington.
Erik Cole had his fifth career hat trick after Steve McIntyre opened the scoring in the first period with his first career goal.
"Rollie really held us in there in the first period until we seemed to get our bearings. And it was a great goal by Mac, a big goal. It really lifts our spirits," Cole said. "We went out in the second period with more conviction and I think we controlled the play the way we wanted to."
The Oilers have scored 35 goals in 11 games since Dec. 22, going 7-4-0 in that span. Minnesota has scored only 22 goals in the same stretch.