A four-game winning streak has pulled the Minnesota Wild within one point of the top spot in the Northwest Division. They could find themselves alone in first place Thursday night if they can defeat the listless Edmonton Oilers.
Minnesota (40-24-7) looks to move atop its tightly contested division and hand Edmonton its longest losing streak in 12 years when the teams meet at Rexall Place.
The Wild's four consecutive wins, three of which have come on the road, represent their best run since opening the season with six straight victories. Minnesota has eight of its last 11 and picked up a point in 10 of those games.
The surge has moved Minnesota within one point of Northwest-leading Vancouver, and a Wild victory Thursday, combined with a regulation loss by the Canucks to St. Louis later in the night, would push the Wild into sole possession of the top spot.
The Wild moved into position to pass Vancouver with a 3-2 overtime win over the Canucks at GM Place on Tuesday. After Minnesota rallied from a two-goal first-period deficit, rookie Brent Burns scored the winner in the final minute of overtime - his second such goal in as many games.
"We had to forget about (the first period) and play our game," Burns, who scored with 18.9 seconds left in the extra period to beat Colorado 3-2 on Sunday, told the Wild's official Web site. "Both teams played a good games, and it was a battle. It's good to get those two points."
The points helped Minnesota draw closer to earning its first postseason berth since 2002-03. The Wild are in a fifth-place tie with Dallas and San Jose in the Western Conference.
Minnesota's Niklas Backstrom made 22 saves to improve to 6-1-1 with a 1.92 goals-against average in his last nine appearances. He is 12-3-3 with a 2.21 GAA since Jan. 20 while starting in place of Manny Fernandez.
Fernandez, who made a relief appearance March 6 in his return from a knee injury, has dressed as Backstrom's backup the past four games.
Backstrom won his only start against Edmonton 4-1 on Feb. 25, while Fernandez is 1-2 with a 2.33 GAA in three games against the Oilers in 2006-07.
Minnesota has won three of five meetings with the Oilers this season, outscoring them 15-8. The Wild won 5-0 at Rexall on March 1 in the most recent matchup.
Edmonton (30-34-6) will be looking to end an eight-game losing streak as it opens a six-game homestand. It's the Oilers' longest slide since a nine-game skid from March 23-April 9, 1995.
The slump began with the Feb. 25 loss to Minnesota, one game before trading leading scorer Ryan Smyth to the New York Islanders.
Smyth's absence has been apparent during the slide, as the Oilers have been outscored 32-6 and suffered three shutouts over that span. The defending Western Conference champions dropped their third straight on the road Monday, 5-1 to Los Angeles.
Edmonton played those three road contests with just 17 skaters due to the absence of 10 injured players, including points leader Ales Hemsky (shoulder).
"I'm not saying we're snake-bit. It's a product of what we have on the ice right now," coach Craig MacTavish said. "We're having a hard time getting the shots through from the back end and we aren't giving ourselves a chance to get lucky. It's just frustrating."
The Oilers are 0-for-22 on the power play during their slide, which is three games shy of the franchise-record 11 consecutive losses they had from Oct. 16-Nov. 7, 1993.
Edmonton will be facing a Minnesota club that's ranked second in the league in penalty killing and has allowed just one goal in its last 34 times short-handed.
The Oilers are 4-8-1 against the Wild since Nov. 23, 2005, with their only win at home in that stretch coming Dec. 14. Edmonton has not won a season series against Minnesota since 2002-03.