Rookie goaltender Niklas Backstrom has kept the Minnesota Wild in the hunt for the Northwest Division title while Manny Fernandez recovers from a knee injury. They may have to rely on an even younger rookie in net for the immediate future.
Minnesota's shaky goaltending situation is muddled further as the Wild continue a three-game road swing against Northwest Division rivals at Rexall Place versus the fading Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night.
The 29-year-old Backstrom, who earned NHL First Star of the week honors Monday and has 22 wins, left with a lower-body injury after making five first-period saves against Calgary on Wednesday. With Fernandez sidelined since Jan. 30, Minnesota (35-23-6) turned to 22-year-old Josh Harding for just his second appearance this season and fifth of his career.
Harding, a second-round selection picked 38th overall in 2002, made 21 saves in the final two periods and overtime, but allowed Jarome Iginla's shootout goal in a 2-1 loss to the Flames.
"Hopefully Nik and Manny aren't out that long, but when they're hurt, that's the backup goalie's job just to try and step in there," said Harding, who went 2-1-0 with a 2.59 goals-against average in three starts last season.
Minnesota dropped into third place in the Northwest, one point behind co-leaders Vancouver and Calgary. The Wild will wrap up their road swing Sunday against the Canucks.
Pavol Demitra scored the lone goal for Minnesota. He needs one goal to reach 20 for the ninth straight season but has been held to just two assists in four games against Edmonton in 2006-07.
"We played a good hockey team tonight," Minnesota forward Brian Rolston said. "It was a playoff-style hockey game and it's something we'll need to get used to in the last 18 games that we have. They're going to be a lot of one-goal games."
After one of the most emotional days in franchise history, the Oilers will try to bounce back from a poor effort to face one of the teams they're chasing for a playoff spot.
Minutes before Tuesday's trading deadline, Ryan Smyth - the long-time face of the franchise and their leading scorer this season - was unable to reach agreement on a new contract and was sent to the New York Islanders for former first-rounders Robert Nilsson and Ryan O'Marra and a future first-round pick.
That night, Mark Messier, who won five Stanley Cups with the Oilers, became the sixth player in franchise history to have his jersey retired when his No. 11 was raised to the rafters at Rexall Place. The Oilers (30-28-6) followed that with a 3-0 loss to Phoenix.
Angry fans, who enthusiastically chanted "Smytty" earlier in the contest, cheered when the announcer sounded the last minute of play in each period and booed the Oilers off the ice.
"Absolutely we deserved it," Edmonton captain Jason Smith said. "We didn't come with the work ethic that we need."
The loss put Edmonton in a deeper hole in its bid to reach the postseason and defend its Western Conference championship. With 18 games to play, the Oilers are 10 points behind Minnesota for the eighth and final playoff berth.
Now that Smyth has been dealt, Ales Hemsky and Petr Sykora are tied for the team scoring lead with 49 points each. Sykora, who also leads Edmonton with 20 goals, has just one in four games against the Wild this season. Hemsky has a team-best 40 assists, but no points in three games versus Minnesota.
Oilers goaltender Dwayne Roloson is 2-2-0 with a 2.02 GAA this season when facing his former club.