Wild battle Oilers as Gilbert returns to Edmonton

Minnesota Wild defenseman Tom Gilbert makes his return to Edmonton on Thursday night as his current club takes on the Oilers.

Born in Bloomington, Minnesota, the 30-year-old Gilbert was drafted in the fourth round by the Colorado Avalanche in 2002, but never played with the club before getting dealt to the Oilers on March 9, 2004.

The 6-foot-2 blueliner did skate in 384 games with Edmonton over five-plus seasons, potting 33 goals with 158 points before getting traded to Minnesota on Feb. 27 of last year for another defenseman in Nick Schultz.

Gilbert had five assists in 20 games with the Wild last season and has logged three goals and seven points in 15 games this year.

"I've had plenty of time to think about it to be honest with you," said Gilbert of his return. "It's been a while since I've been back here. We didn't get a chance to play here last year (after the trade). The lockout, obviously, made it a little longer, but I have so many great memories here.

"It's fun being a part of your first organization for six years and it's nice to be back."

Schultz, meanwhile, was a second-round pick by the Wild in 2000, and left the club as its all-time leader in games played with 743. He has five assists in 35 games with the Oilers including last season after logging 26 goals and 128 points with the Wild.

The 30-year-old will make his return to Minnesota on March 3.

Gilbert's current club is coming off a 3-2 win over the Red Wings on Sunday. Detroit seemed in control when it went up 2-0 just 20 seconds into the middle period, but Dany Heatley, Jason Zucker and Torrey Mitchell all scored in the second frame to pace the Wild.

"We got real good production from all the lines tonight," said Zucker, who scored his first career NHL goal. "This was a nice game to have because we've been playing poor lately."

Heatley's fifth goal of the season had to serve as a relief for the winger as it was his first in 10 games.

Minnesota had lost five of seven coming in and got 29 saves from backup netminder Darcy Kuemper, who got his second career start and first win after Niklas Backstrom became ill right before the contest.

Backstrom, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Justin Falk were all sick last week but practiced Tuesday, while captain Mikko Koivu returned to the ice on Wednesday after his own bout with illness the previous day.

He should play on Thursday against the Oilers, who have lost seven of their last nine and followed up a solid 6-4 win over the Colorado Avalanche with a 3-1 setback at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday.

Sam Gagner scored for Edmonton, which saw L.A. net the winning goal with just 49.4 seconds left in regulation. Nikolai Khabibulin gave up two goals on 37 shots in the loss.

"Kind of an unfortunate break at the end of the game there," said Gagner. "But if we were getting pucks deep and forechecking harder like we did the other night, things like that don't happen."

Edmonton will play the fourth of a five-game homestand and is 3-3-2 at the host this season.

Minnesota is 1-4-1 on the road.

The Wild have won 10 of their last 12 against the Oilers and had won five straight in Edmonton prior to a 4-1 loss there on Dec. 22, 2011.