The Minnesota Wild and Boston Bruins are on opposite sides of the playoff bubble in their respective conferences, but both will need to bounce back from shutout defeats to improve their postseason chances on Thursday.
The Wild try to remain undefeated in Boston when they visit the Bruins for the first time in three years.
Minnesota (36-24-7) holds the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference with 79 points, but is just three points shy of fifth-place San Jose. Boston (32-29-5) is 12th in the East with 69 points, but only trails Toronto and Carolina by four points for eighth place.
These teams haven’t met since Dec. 15, 2005, when Boston won 3-2 on the road for its first victory in six all-time meetings with Minnesota. The Wild have won all three matchups in Boston, though, most recently a 2-0 win on March 18, 2004.
Minnesota was on the other side of a shutout Tuesday, losing 3-0 to the San Jose Sharks and snapping a streak of six straight games with at least one point on the standings.
“It’s obviously disappointing,” said Wild center Wes Walz, who began his career in Boston. “It was a big game for us and we had a chance to move up in the standings. We’ve got two huge games coming up, so we can’t let this simmer. We’ve got to put it behind us and get ready for the road trip.”
The Wild play five of their next six on the road, where they are 10-3-2 in their last 15 games after beginning the season 4-15-1. Niklas Backstrom will start goal for Minnesota according to coach Jacques Lemaire, despite being pulled Tuesday after allowing all three San Jose goals in the second period.
Manny Fernandez played the third period in his first appearance after missing more than a month with a sprained knee, but will have to wait to make his first start. Backstrom is 8-3-2 with a 2.56 goals-against average since Fernandez was put on injured reserve Feb. 1, and could remain Minnesota’s top netminder for the stretch run.
He could certainly use more offensive help then he got Tuesday. Brian Rolston leads the Wild with 26 goals, but has been held without one in each of the last six games.
The veteran right wing will try to end that slump in his first game in Boston since signing with the Wild before the lockout season. Rolston played four-plus seasons with the Bruins from 1999-2004, and recorded a goal and an assist against his former team in last season’s defeat.
Pavol Demitra, second on Minnesota with 53 points, had four-game point streak snapped Tuesday. However, he has five goals and 10 assists during an eight-game point streak versus the Bruins.
Minnesota may again be without captain Mark Parrish, who has missed back-to-back games with an upper body injury.
“(Tuesday) was an important game,” said Thomas, who has never faced the Wild. “Four points out of the playoffs going in, it could have been two if we got the win. We had a chance to pick up some points (Tuesday), and we didn’t get the job done.”
The Bruins have lost seven of their last 10 home games, scoring one goal or fewer in four of those contests.