Wild, Oilers look for separation at Rexall Place
Both teams search for big victory in quest for playoff spot.
A visit by the Minnesota Wild may provide the cure for an ailing Edmonton Oilers club.
The Oilers (30-26-5) have lost four of their last five games but have also taken the most recent three against the Wild at home, and that's where the two teams line up on Saturday night (CBCSports,CBCSports.ca, 10 pm ET).
While the Calgary Flames have built a 12-point lead in the Northwest Division, the Wild and Oilers find themselves involved in a four-team battle for the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference.
Both teams, along with the Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars, have 65 points each.
Minnesota (30-25-5) has a game in hand on Edmonton and putting a little space between them and the opposition is becoming crucial.
"We've got to make sure that we're ready to go," said defenceman Marc-Andre Bergeron, a former Oiler now anchoring the Wild's blueline.
"If they score one or two quick goals, we can't get our head between our legs and quit. We've got to keep playing and we've got to keep playing hard."
Minnesota is playing the second contest of a six-game road trip and a string during which 13 of 16 contests are away from St. Paul.
Neither the Wild or the Oilers have been able to garner a road victory against the other this year. Since Minnesota last beat Edmonton at Rexall Place (4-2 on Nov. 15, 2007), the home team has won the last seven meetings.
The Oilers will have to find a way to solve Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom, who in 14 career games against the blue and orange is 11-1 with a 1.80 goals against.
His only loss against the Oilers was a 3-1 defeat on Jan. 30 when the Finnish goaltender allowed three goals on 11 shots and was pulled in the second period.
Backstrom, who is 28-18-4 and tied for fourth in the league with a 2.24 GAA, is a major reason why the Wild have allowed the second-fewest goals in the NHL with 141.
Edmonton has been shut out five times this season, including a 1-0 loss to Columbus on Thursday night.
In their final 21-game push to a playoff spot, Edmonton needs more production from leading scorer Ales Hemsky.
Hemsky has just one point (a goal against the Flames on Feb. 21) in his last five games. The Oilers are 12-1 when the right winger gets two points or more in a game this year.
However, Hemsky isn't the only Oiler who hasn't been scoring.
Robert Nilsson has gone 14 games without a goal, Dustin Penner six games and Sam Gagner has just six goals on the season after scoring 13 in his rookie campaign.
Oilers goaltender Dwayne Roloson, who is 21-16-5 on the season, is 3-8-2 with a 3.32 GAA in his last 13 games against his former team. Roloson was traded to Edmonton from Minnesota in March 2006.