WILD (4-9-0) at PENGUINS (11-2-0)
Last 10 --
Minnesota 3-7-0; Pittsburgh 9-1-0
Season series --
It's the only meeting of the season for these teams. The Wild also played at Mellon Arena last season and escaped with two points, via a 2-1 shootout victory. Mikko Koivu
and Matt Cooke
scored 10 seconds apart in the first period for the only goals of regulation, and Marek Zidlicky
had the only goal of the penalty-shot tiebreaker. Niklas Backstrom
made 19 saves.
Big story --
For the ninth time this season, Minnesota will attempt to win its first game on the road. The only other clubs that still haven't earned two points in a game away from home are Carolina (0-4-2) and Tampa Bay (0-3-1). The Wild haven't even earned a point in a road game, as all eight of their losses have come in regulation. Beating the defending Stanley Cup champions in their own barn is a tall order, but what a way it would be to end the skid.
Helped out by a number of games at the Xcel Energy Center, where its record is much more impressive at 4-1-0, Minnesota has been playing better hockey of late. The Wild have split their past six games, and are coming off a 3-2 win over the Rangers on Friday. Petr Sykora, who won the Cup last season as a member of the Penguins, picked up a goal and an assist.
"I think Petr had something to prove," said coach Todd Richards, who made Sykora a healthy scratch in the previous game. "We need more from him, and more from all the other players. I thought some guys really elevated their play tonight."
A late two-goal rally and subsequent shootout goal by Sidney Crosby
helped Pittsburgh turn what looked like a sure loss into two more points Friday in Columbus. The 4-3 win improved the Penguins to 6-0-0 on the road this season, as they remained one of only three teams in the League without a road loss -- New Jersey (6-0-0) and Buffalo (4-0-0) are the others.
''It felt like in the third we just kept generating chances,'' Crosby said. ''We all felt confident we could get ourselves back in it with the way we were playing, the momentum we had.''
Who's hot --
Koivu had two assists against the Rangers and has five helpers in his last four games. Alex Goligoski's goal against the Blue Jackets that forced overtime was his third in as many games, and the defenseman has four goals, eight points and a plus-8 rating during a seven-game points streak. He's a team-leading plus-13 for the season.
Injury report --
Minnesota defenseman Kim Johnsson will probably be out another week with an upper-body injury. Pittsburgh is missing Evgeni Malkin
(shoulder), Sergei Gonchar (wrist) and Maxime Talbot (shoulder), while Tyler Kennedy
has missed the past two games with an undisclosed injury.
Stat pack --
Backup goalie Brent Johnson
has won consecutive starts for the Penguins, and in both games they've come back from two-goal deficits in the third period and won in shootouts. Marc-Andre Fleury
will be back between the pipes against the Wild.
Puck drop --
Both of Pittsburgh's losses this season have been on home ice, and the Penguins have had close calls recently against Florida and Columbus in the aforementioned Johnson starts. Still, teams have been finding out it takes a complete, 60-minute effort to beat the defending champs, and there's no doubt if the Wild finally get that first road win they will have earned it.
-- Brian Hunter, NHL.com