Wild-Oilers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 19, 2011
The Minnesota Wild are in need of something to get them out of a minor rough patch. A trip to Edmonton might be what it takes. Facing each other for the second time in eight days, the Wild look to avoid a third straight loss while trying for an eighth consecutive victory over the Oilers on Thursday night. Minnesota (2-2-2) has scored two goals in each of its last three games, losing the last two after a 2-1 shootout victory over Edmonton at home last Thursday. The Wild were understandably discouraged after they managed both scores on 20 shots over the second and third periods in a 4-2 home loss to injury-depleted Pittsburgh on Tuesday. "It's obviously frustrating for us because we know we can be a good team," defenseman Greg Zanon said. "We've just got to find a way to play a full 60 minutes." That includes finding a way to improve on the power play, where the Wild are scoreless in their last 10 chances. Minnesota, which failed on all four opportunities against the Oilers, is 3 for 23 on the power play this season. "We have enough good players where we should be at the very least creating momentum and ideally putting pucks in the net," said center Matt Cullen, who assisted on Guillaume Latendresse's first goal in almost a year Tuesday. Minnesota is 3 for 13 on the power play while outscoring Edmonton 11-4 during a three-game winning streak at Rexall Place. The Wild's seven-game overall winning stretch versus the Oilers dates to a 4-1 loss there April 5, 2010. Cullen, who scored one of his team-leading three goals against the Oilers last week, has four with four assists in his last eight games versus Edmonton. Though they did not record a point together on the ice, first-year Minnesota coach Mike Yeo could again go with Dany Heatley, Mikko Koivu and Pierre-Marc Bouchard as the team's top line in this contest. Koivu did assist on Cal Clutterbuck's second goal in as many games Tuesday. Niklas Backstrom stopped 21 shots last Thursday to improve to 19-2-1 with a 1.70 goals-against average versus Edmonton. The Oilers (2-2-1) look to bounce back after they blew a one-goal lead in the third period of Tuesday's 2-1 loss at Calgary. "That's why it's a 60-minute game," said defenseman Tom Gilbert, who scored his first goal. "That's frustrating. We have to bear down when it comes to crunch time with minutes ticking down in the third period." Edmonton center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the overall No. 1 pick in this year's draft, was held without a point for the second time in five career games. The other came at Minnesota. Though Devan Dubnyk is 1-1-0 with a 1.51 GAA against the Wild, Nikolai Khabibulin could be in net if Oilers coach Tom Renney continues to alternate starts between his goaltenders. Khabibulin made 34 saves last Thursday in dropping to 0-5-1 with a 3.33 GAA against the Wild since beating them 5-2 at home Oct. 16, 2009. All six meetings between these teams this season will take place before New Year's Eve.
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