Season series: This is the 4th out of 6th meeting between the two teams this season. The home team has held serve thus far, with Martin Havlat scoring a pair of goals in the most recent matchup, a 4-2 win for the Wild at Xcel Energy Center on Feb. 4.
Big story: Edmonton gave up its postseason hopes long ago, but time hasn't run out on Minnesota just yet. The Wild emerged from the Olympic break by blanking the Flames 4-0 in Calgary and will attempt to sweep their brief Alberta road trip Friday night. They sit 13th in the Western Conference, but just four points out of eighth.
Wild: Niklas Backstrom mostly sat and watched during his time in Vancouver as a member of the Finland team that earned bronze. He did shut out Germany in his only start of the tournament, and on Wednesday he got the last laugh in a showdown with countryman Miikka Kiprusoff of the Flames, the go-to guy for the Finns at the Olympics. Mikko Koivu and Andrew Brunette each had a goal and an assist in support of Backstrom, who finished with 29 saves.
"You never know what to expect when you come out from a break," Backstrom said. "We got off to a good start and played a really solid team game tonight."
Oilers: The final 20 games of the season for Edmonton, starting with Wednesday's 5-2 loss to Chicago, are primarily about building for the future. The Oilers made some moves prior to the trade deadline, which included claiming forward Ryan Jones off waivers from Nashville and acquiring fellow blueliner Aaron Johnson from Calgary. Jones made his debut with the team against the Blackhawks and Johnson should join him in the lineup Friday.
"I think this is a good opportunity for me," Johnson said. "I have about 19, 20 games to try to prove myself and earn myself a job on this team and go out and take advantage of it."
Who's hot: Brunette has scored in three straight games for the Wild, with five points during that span. Koivu has a goal and six assists during a four-game points streak. … Shawn Horcoff has a goal and four assists during a three-game points streak for the Oilers.
Injury report: Minnesota defenseman Clayton Stoner is on injured reserve following hernia surgery. Forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard has played in just one game this season due to recurring headaches following a concussion.
Edmonton defenseman Ladislav Smid is day-to-day with a bulging disc in his neck. Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (back), defenseman Sheldon Souray (hand) and forwards Ales Hemsky (shoulder), Ryan Stone (knee) and Jean-Francois Jacques (back) are all on injured reserve.
Stat pack: Backstrom has been money against the Oilers during his career, posting a 14-1-0 record with a 1.64 goals-against average in 17 career starts. … Tom Gilbert, who has become the stalwart on Edmonton's blue line following several recent trades, had 26:32 of ice time in Wednesday's loss to Chicago.
Puck drop: The Wild have a handful of teams they must climb over in order to make the playoffs. These are two points they can ill afford to pass up.
"Season series: Fourth and final meeting of the regular season. The home team has held serve thus far, with Martin Havlat scoring a pair of goals in the most recent matchup, a 4-2 win for the Wild at Xcel Energy Center on Feb. 4."
The EDM and MIN play again on March 16th...... they play 6 divisonal games against each other
I guess Horc's one goal in 20 games was enough for the first line again. What does Brule have to do to get respect on this team?
I don't have a clue what Brule has to do, but its pretty sad that the Oiler's have their fourth leading scorer on the fourth line while Mr. 5 goal Cogliano and no defense Osullivan get to be on the second line. In general those lines are atrocious and the only thing I can come up with is that the Oiler's are hell bent on finishing last and that is why players that are contributing Offensively, Gagner and Brule are getting the short end of the stick with linemates.
Shellacking tonight. 6-2 Wild (JDD gets pulled) but we will have a bunch of fights and good intestinal fortitude play to compensate. Whitney will be -2 and will be declared a BUST! by naysayers such as myself.
Well, it's nice to see we finally have a dedicated shut-down line in Gilbert and Whitney.
But seriously, what's up with those forward lines? Recipe for failure? We put Pouliot and Gagner, 2 guys who have been playing well at the center position, on the same line. We keep O'Sullivan and Cogliano on the second, while Potulny and Brule get the shaft with 4th line minutes, again.