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Wild attempt to improve positioning vs. Oilers

by Dan Myers

WILD (31-21-7) at OILERS (20-33-7)


Last 10: Minnesota 6-2-2; Edmonton 5-3-2

Season series: This is the second of three games this season. Minnesota's Jason Pominville had a goal and an assist in a 4-1 win Jan. 16 at Xcel Energy Center.

Big story: Minnesota got hot before the Olympic break, winning two of its final three games and taking five of a possible six points. Minnesota is 11-4-2 since the first of the year and has opened up a five-point lead for the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

Team Scope:

Wild: Minnesota was playing well before the Olympic break, but the time off came at a good time for several injured players. Defenseman Marco Scandella, who twisted his knee with one game remaining before break, would have missed three weeks' worth of games any other season. Forward Jason Zucker needed a minor procedure done on his leg during the break and could be back in a few of days. Captain Mikko Koivu, who hasn't played since Jan. 4, didn't go to Sochi and was instead able to rehab his fractured ankle.

"Let's be honest, there's no question we want to get him back, he's a huge part of our team," coach Mike Yeo said of Koivu, who won't play Thursday. "But at the same time, when we get him back, we want to have him in the lineup at 100 percent or at the very least very close to that. More importantly we want to have him back for the rest of the season."

Oilers: Edmonton is 17 points out of a Stanley Cup Playoff spot in the Western Conference and could see a number of changes to the roster in the coming days as the NHL Trade Deadline approaches next Wednesday. Coach Dallas Eakins said Tuesday the Oilers' approach won't change even though the team could be looking at number of different players over their final 22 games in an effort to start building toward next season.

"We're going to play to win this game," Eakins said. "Will we take some different looks at people in different situations now? Yes. I think we have a couple of players who may be ready now to play some bigger minutes."

Who's hot: Wild forward Mikael Granlund was one of the top players in Sochi and should return to the NHL brimming with confidence. The second-year center, who turned 22 Wednesday, was named to the Olympic All-Star team after leading Finnish forwards in points (seven), shots (20) and minutes played (18:15). … Oilers forward Ales Hemsky had a solid Olympics too, scoring three goals and an assist in five games with the Czech Republic. Hemsky has been rumored to be among players that could be available in the run-up to the Trade Deadline.

Injury report: Koivu (fractured ankle) and Scandella (knee) remain out for Minnesota. Goaltender Josh Harding (illness) and forward Jason Zucker (leg) are also out. … Edmonton defenseman Philip Larsen (illness) is out.

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