Wild host Rangers trying to avoid 4th straight loss

( - The Minnesota Wild hope to snap their longest losing streak of 2014 when they welcome the New York Rangers for Thursday's clash at Xcel Energy Center.

The Wild emerged from the Olympic break by taking three in a row to push their overall winning streak to a season-best five games. Since then, however, Minnesota has lost three in a row (0-1-2) to give the club its longest slide since an 0-6-0 stretch from Dec. 19-31.

Minnesota enters Thursday's action with 77 points and is still holding on to the first of the Western Conference's two wild card spots. The Wild are three points ahead of the eighth-seeded Dallas Stars.

Minnesota was able to record a point for a second straight game in its last trip to the ice, dropping a 4-3 home decision to the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday. The Wild built a 3-0 lead over the Oilers in the first period only to watch the last-place team in the West rally for the shootout win.

Edmonton's Jeff Petry cut the deficit to 3-1 before the end of the first period. David Perron and Jordan Eberle then tallied over a four-minute span in the third to even things at 3-3.

Taylor Hall delivered the winner in the shootout, scoring in the fourth round to complete the comeback win for Edmonton.

Zach Parise and Jason Pominville each posted a goal and an assist in the loss and Jared Spurgeon also scored for the Wild. Darcy Kuemper turned away 23 shots in the loss.

"You've got to hold the team in there when you get that kind of pressure and that didn't happen tonight," said Kuemper. "I didn't feel off my game or anything, it was just one of those nights where things didn't go my way."

Kuemper expects to start for the 18th time in 19 games for the Wild on Thursday. The 23-year-old netminder has never faced the Rangers.

After dropping consecutive shootout decisions to begin a four-game homestand, the Wild are still 22-7-4 as the home team this season.

The Rangers recorded a 4-1 home win over Minnesota on Dec. 22 and can sweep the season series tonight. New York has won two straight and three of the last four meetings overall and has claimed the last two encounters in St. Paul.

New York had won two straight before beginning its current three-game road trip with a 3-1 loss at Carolina on Tuesday. It was the fourth setback for the Blueshirts in six games this month.

Jordan Staal and Jiri Tlusty each posted a goal and an assist to help the Hurricanes down the Rangers.

Kevin Klein scored the only goal for the Rangers, while Henrik Lundqvist gave up all three goals on 35 shots in the loss.

"We gave away two points because we didn't work," said New York head coach Alain Vigneault. "Right from the start our work ethic wasn't what it should be in any game in this league if you want to win. We'll deal with it tomorrow and go from there."

Martin St. Louis went without a point for the second straight game and has recorded just one assist in his first four games with the Rangers. St. Louis, of course, was acquired from Tampa Bay at the trade deadline in exchange for New York captain Ryan Callahan, a 2015 first-round draft pick, and a conditional 2014 second-round pick.

The Rangers are currently in second place in the Metropolitan Division but they are only one point in front of Columbus and Philadelphia. The top three teams in each division earn automatic bids to the postseason.

New York has a solid 19-12-0 road record this season and will complete its trip tomorrow in Winnipeg.