Wild-Blue Jackets Preview
GAME: Minnesota Wild (25-21-4) at Columbus Blue Jackets (18-30-2).
TIME: Friday, 7 p.m. EST.
A five-game winning streak is uncharted territory for the fifth-year Minnesota Wild.
The Wild look to extend their franchise-record streak to six games against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Minnesota also has won four of its last five on the road, but lost its only previous meeting against the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena this season.
The defensive-minded Wild, who rank 27th in goals among NHL teams over their five seasons, have found a scoring touch during their winning streak.
The Wild have scored 20 goals in their five wins after being held to three in three games prior to its successful run.
Team scoring leader Brian Rolston and Martin Gaborik have four goals each during the streak. Rolston scored two goals each night in 3-2 victories Sunday over the Chicago Blackhawks and Tuesday against the Phoenix Coyotes.
Rolston also has four assists in the last five games, including a pair in Thursday's 5-1 win over the Nashville Predators.
The Wild received a big contribution from former top overall pick Alexandre Daigle against the Predators. A healthy scratch in Minnesota's last two games and five of the last 11, Daigle had a goal and an assist.
Daigle gave Minnesota a late 2-0 first-period lead with a strong individual effort, fending off defenseman Ryan Suter and beating screened goaltender Chris Mason with a wrist shot from the slot.
"What he did differently was when he got the puck he could get away from people, which we've been looking for all year," Minnesota coach Jacques Lemaire said.
The Blue Jackets haven't been able to put together a substantial winning streak all season, though they have gone 9-5-1 since Dec. 26. They defeated the Chicago Blackhawks that day to start their season-high three-game winning streak.
There are encouraging signs for Columbus, which ranks last in the NHL in goals and hadn't scored more than four goals in a game until beating Phoenix 5-2 on Jan. 8. The Blue Jackets then scored six in a win Jan. 11 against Pittsburgh and five in a victory Jan. 14 over Florida.
The Blue Jackets posted a 6-5 win Tuesday over the Vancouver Canucks as right wing Trevor Letowski scored with 4:37 to play. It was the highest-scoring home game in the five-year history of the franchise.
"As far as offense, it worked out for us really, really well," said Columbus forward Sergei Fedorov. "It was good to see some individual effort from the guys who scored some goals - especially the last one."
Letowski put a fake on Vancouver's Todd Bertuzzi, freezing him before beating goaltender Alexander Auld between the leg pads.
STANDINGS: Wild - 54 points, 5th place, 9 PB, Northwest Division. Blue Jackets - 38 points, 4th place, 32 PB, Central Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Wild - Rolston, 22 goals, 30 assists and 52 points; Derek Boogaard, 103 PIM. Blue Jackets - Nikolai Zherdev, 15 goals; David Vyborny, 21 assists and 34 points; Jody Shelley, 102 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 26): Wild - Power play: 17.4 percent (49 for 281), 15th in NHL. Penalty killing: 89.2 percent (247 for 277), 1st. Blue Jackets - Power play: 14.8 percent (42 for 284), 26th. Penalty killing: 82.4 percent (280 for 340), 14th.
GOALTENDERS: Wild - Manny Fernandez (20-7-3, 1 SO, 1.99 GAA); Dwayne Roloson (5-14-1, 1, 2.99). Blue Jackets - Marc Denis (11-17-0, 1, 3.37); Pascal Leclaire (4-10-2, 0, 3.73).
SEASON SERIES: Blue Jackets, 2-1.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 30; Blue Jackets, 3-2 (SO). At St. Paul, Minn., Randy Robitaille forced overtime for the Wild with a third-period goal, but Jaroslav Balastik scored the only goal in the shootout for Columbus.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Wild - 9-11-3 on the road; Blue Jackets - 12-12-0 at home.