Free-falling Wild host Oilers
Minnesota's longest winless stretch of the season has cost it first place in the Northwest Division and now the club can't even count on a visit from Edmonton for some automatic momentum.
The Wild try to avoid going nine straight games without a win for the first time in nearly 10 years this evening as they wrap up their season series with the rival Oilers.
Minnesota has gone 0-5-3 since a seven-game win streak from Nov. 28-Dec. 10 and now sits two points behind Vancouver for the division's top spot. The Wild haven't gone nine straight games without a victory since a stretch of eight losses and a tie from Jan. 19-Feb. 8, 2002.
The Wild lost for the third time in a shootout over its current losing streak, dropping a 2-1 decision to the Predators on Wednesday. Dany Heatley had the tying goal with 3:59 left in regulation, just the Wild's sixth goal in their past six games, but Nashville scored the only shootout tally off Josh Harding.
In fact, not one, but two Wild skaters lost the puck during their attempts in the shootout to further the bad luck.
Harding had 24 saves for the Wild and is likely to give way tonight to Niklas Backstrom after giving up four goals on 28 shots in his lone start versus the Oilers this year. That home loss on Nov. 25 snapped the Oilers' 17-game slide in Minnesota.
Backstrom, meanwhile, is 15-0-0 with a 1.19 goals-against average and .954 save percentage in his career at home versus the Oilers, who will look to win two straight at Minnesota for the first time since the 2003-04 campaign.
The Oilers are 2-0-3 versus the Wild this season, losing all three games in a shootout to give Minnesota a victory in nine of the past 11 meetings overall.
Nikolai Khabibulin has been in net for all five games, posting a 1.33 GAA and .956 save percentage. Jordan Eberle is leading all scorers with seven points in the season series off three goals and four assists and brings a five-game overall point streak into this game after logging a goal and an assist in Monday's 5-3 loss in Vancouver.
Eberle has five goals and seven points over his point streak, while Corey Potter also finished with a goal and an assist versus the Canucks and Ryan Smyth scored. Khabibulin gave up five goals -- including three in the first period -- on 26 shots as the Oilers have lost five of six and 10 of their past 13.
"It's tough to come back when you dig yourself as big a hole as we did," said Edmonton head coach Tom Renney. "In this building against this team, you're not going to get many come-from-behind wins."
Edmonton also lost its fifth straight on the road and that came in the opener of a seven-game road swing. That trip will continue tonight without Ryan Whitney due to right ankle tendinitis, while Ales Hemsky is questionable due to a sinus infection.