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Wild go for 16 in a row at home vs. Oilers

by Frank Mentesana
OILERS (23-42-11) at WILD (36-32-8)


Last 10: Edmonton 0-7-3; Minnesota 2-7-1

Season series: This is the fifth of six meetings this season, as the Wild look to continue their recent dominance over the Oilers. Minnesota has scored four goals in each of the previous four matchups, winning all of them and outscoring the Oilers 16-6. The Xcel Energy Center, the site of Thursday's game, has been a house of horrors for Edmonton over the last few years -- Edmonton has lost its last 15 games there. Overall, the Wild are 9-2-1 in the last 12 meetings.

Big story: The Wild, 11th place in the West, are still mathematically in playoff contention, but they are 10 points out of the eighth spot with only six games left. A win on Thursday would keep their slim playoff hopes alive. The Oilers are playing for pride, trying not to finish the season last in the overall standings in back-to-back seasons. Edmonton has 57 points, seven less than the Colorado Avalanche, who have also played one less game.

Team Scope:

Oilers: With top scorers Sam Gagner, Taylor Hall, and Ales Hemsky all lost to injury, the Oilers are going through their roughest patch of the season. They have dropped 10 in a row, scoring merely 11 goals and connecting just three times in 40 chances on the power play during the losing streak.

"Our guys are trying, and there are ways to score regardless of the experience on the ice or the skill level of your team," coach Tom Renney said after Edmonton was blanked 2-0 by the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday. "We still have an ability to score, and we need to continue to do those things better incumbent with any NHL team."

Wild: March has not been kind to the Wild, who have posted just three wins this month -- the latest of which was a 3-2 shootout win in St. Louis on Tuesday. That broke a franchise-record eight-game losing streak, which the Wild will look at as the main reason they didn't make the postseason for the third straight season.

"Nobody's happy where we're at, with everything that went on over the last two weeks," coach Todd Richards said after practice on Wednesday. "I think we'll always have that. We'll always be thinking about these two weeks and really trying to connect the dots and what happened, because we're a better team than how we've been playing."

Who's hot: Forward Antti Miettinen has 3 goals in his last five games for Minnesota. …Magnus Paajarvi has 3points over his last six games for Edmonton.

Injury report: The Oilers are still without Gagner (hand), Hall (ankle), Hemsky (shoulder), Taylor Chorney (knee), Shawn Horcoff (ankle), and defenseman Ryan Whitney (ankle). Gilbert Brule and Kurtis Foster are both day-to-day with concussions. … For the Wild, Cam Barker (back), Josh Harding (knee), Guillaume Latendresse (lower body), Marco Scandella (finger), and James Sheppard (knee) remain sidelined. Forward Chuck Kobasew sat out the win over the Blues with a leg injury, but he practiced on Wednesday and is probable to play against the Oilers.

Stat pack: Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom will get the start in goal on Thursday, looking to improve on some astounding numbers when facing Edmonton. The Finnish netminder is 17-2-1 with a 1.73 goals-against average and four shutouts against the Oilers. All four of those shutouts came in St. Paul, where Backstrom is 13-0-0 with a 1.15 GAA against the Oilers. …The Wild matched a franchise record with its 19th road victory of the season in beating St. Louis on Tuesday.

Puck drop: Minnesota's 15-game home winning streak matches the Nashville Predators' home dominance of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the longest current streak in the NHL.

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