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Wild, Leafs both hope to end skids

by Brian Compton
WILD (22-17-7) at MAPLE LEAFS (22-18-5)

: TSN, FS-N (HD), FS-WI (HD)

Last 10: Minnesota 2-6-2; Toronto 4-5-1.

Season Series: This is the lone meeting between the teams. They last faced each other on March 22, 2011, when the Leafs earned a 3-0 victory at the Xcel Energy Center.

Big Story: Something has to give in this showdown Thursday night. Toronto enters hoping to avoid it's first four-game skid in 14 months, while Minnesota will be aiming to put an end to a 10-game losing streak on the road.

Team Scope:

Wild: The biggest reason why the Wild are struggling so mightily? They can't score. Minnesota enters Thursday's action averaging just 2.2 goals per game and are coming off a 5-1 loss at Philadelphia on Tuesday night.

What's worse, the Wild are expected to be without forward Mikko Koivu, who was injured during last Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss at St. Louis. Minnesota is 0-4-1 when Koivu is not in the lineup.

"It's ridiculous on our part," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "Just because bad things happen, we can't play our game. We have to fix that."

Maple Leafs: Minnesota isn't the only team struggling offensively. Toronto has scored only 4 goals during this skid and will have a different look when the puck drops Thursday night.

Phil Kessel, who leads the Leafs with 49 points, is expected to skate alongside Tyler Bozak and Matthew Lombardi. Joffrey Lupul, meanwhile, will likely be on the second line with center Tim Connolly and young winger Nazem Kadri.

"At least for a period (on Thursday), we'll see if something like that helps us," coach Ron Wilson admitted.

Who's Hot: Dany Heatley has a goal and 2 assists over his last five games for the Wild. … Kessel has 3 points (1 goal, 2 assists) in his last five games, while Lupul has 2 goals and an assist over the same stretch.

Injury Report: Koivu (upper body) is week-to-week for the Wild, while Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion), Jarod Palmer (upper body) and Guillaume Latendresse (concussion) are out. … Darryl Boyce (undisclosed) is day-to-day for the Leafs. John-Michael Liles (concussion) and Colby Armstrong (toe/head) are out.

Stat Pack: The Wild are 2-10-4 since a seven-game win streak from Nov. 28-Dec. 10. … Leafs goalie James Reimer is 3-5-3 with a 3.21 goals-against average in his last 12 starts.

Puck Drop: "This is a make-or-break point of the season. It absolutely is. This is a playoff stretch for us. That has to be our mindset now. We have to get into that style." -- Minnesota center Matt Cullen

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