Oilers determined to solve Wild again
Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo had no reservations about giving Niklas Backstrom the nod following his worst effort of the season. There's no reason to think Yeo will hesitate to put Backstrom back in net considering his success against the Edmonton Oilers.
Less than a week after Minnesota's lengthy home winning streak in this Northwest Division matchup was snapped, Backstrom will likely make a third straight start Wednesday night when the division-leading Wild go for their fifth straight victory visiting the Oilers.
Back in net for the first time after missing three games due to a personal matter, Backstrom was pulled just 8:45 into Sunday's 5-2 loss to Calgary after giving up three goals on eight shots. The veteran netminder, though, turned aside 32 shots Monday when Minnesota (14-7-3) closed its season-high six-game homestand with a 3-1 victory against Tampa Bay.
"He's been so good for us this year that he deserves that opportunity to bounce back after a game like that," Yeo said.
Backstrom posted a 0.93 goals-against average while winning the first two games against Edmonton (12-10-2) this season and he's 20-2-1 with a 1.66 GAA in 25 starts lifetime. He missed Friday's game against the Oilers as backup netminder Josh Harding yielded four goals in a 5-2 home loss that ended the Wild's season high-tying five-game winning streak.
Minnesota had also won eight in a row overall against Edmonton and 17 straight at home in this matchup.
Oilers centre Taylor Hall had a goal and an assist in that contest for his first career points against the Wild, but the second-year forward is sidelined for at least two weeks after he suffered a left shoulder injury in Saturday's 5-2 loss to Colorado.
Hall has seven goals and is tied for the team lead with four on the power play. The Oilers are 0-6 with the man advantage while losing two in a row.
"We'll miss [Hall], but someone else will pick up the slack and take advantage of the opportunity," Oilers head coach Tom Renney said following Monday's 2-1 loss to Nashville.
Magnus Paajarvi replaced Hall on Monday and is expected to remain on the line with captain Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky.
Rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Smyth will also have to step up their game without the No. 1 overall pick in 2010. The trio has four goals and five assists against Minnesota this season after Nugent-Hopkins scored twice, Smyth added a goal and an assist and Eberle set up two goals Friday.
Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin snapped a personal seven-game losing streak against the Wild in that matchup with 30 saves, but he allowed just two goals in regulation in the first two matchups in 2011-12, with Minnesota posting 2-1 shootout victories in both.
The Oilers were on the verge of snapping a four-game home skid to the Wild on Oct. 20 before Dany Heatley scored the game-tying goal with two seconds left in regulation. Heatley has five goals and nine points in his last seven games at Rexall Place.
Wild center Mikko Koivu, who scored his 100th NHL goal Monday, has three goals and six assists during a six-game point streak. His assist on Devin Setoguchi's first-period goal Friday is his only point against Edmonton this season.
The teams conclude their six-game season series before New Year's Eve.