The Minnesota Wild are hoping for a string of big performances from Niklas Backstrom(notes) down the stretch as they try to reach the playoffs. That’s exactly what he’s delivered in his career against the Edmonton Oilers.
Backstrom looks to follow his second shutout of the season by continuing his domination of the Oilers when the Northwest Division rivals meet Friday night in Edmonton.
Minnesota (31-27-4) came out strong following the Olympic break with a 4-0 victory at Calgary on Wednesday behind Backstrom’s 29 saves. He recorded his 19th career shutout after allowing a total of 10 goals in his two previous road games.
“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.”
Backstrom’s best record against any opponent is his 14-1-0 mark with a 1.64 goals-against average in 17 career starts against Edmonton (19-38-6). He’s posted a 1.23 GAA in winning his last four starts against the Oilers.
Minnesota is 2-1 against Edmonton, with the home team winning each matchup. Though they’re only two spots ahead of the league-worst Oilers in the Western Conference, the Wild are within four points of the eighth and final playoff berth.
As Minnesota pushes for the postseason, Edmonton is clearly in rebuilding mode and the team traded away three experienced defensemen in separate deals before Wednesday’s deadline. Lubomir Visnovsky(notes) was sent to Anaheim, Denis Grebeshkov(notes) to Nashville and Steve Staios(notes) to Calgary.
Due to the departures, Minnesota native Tom Gilbert(notes) logged more than 26 minutes for the first time this season in a 5-2 loss at Chicago on Wednesday. Gilbert leads all Oilers defensemen in ice time.
“The kids did a pretty good job,” coach Pat Quinn said. “We didn’t put the puck at the net enough and once that turnover game starts going it accentuates with the players who were playing in the minors and still learning their craft.”
The Oilers have lost three straight and are 0-7-1 in their last eight, starting with a 4-2 road loss to the Wild on Feb. 4.
Minnesota, though, has had trouble away from home all season, and won for only the second time in nine road games Wednesday. Kyle Brodziak(notes) was the first of four different Wild players to score.
“For some reason, it’s been real difficult for us on the road this year,” Brodziak said. “It’s tough to explain how we play so great at home but we almost feel like a different team on the road. But tonight, it was a good step for us for our confidence on the road.”
Minnesota’s Andrew Brunette(notes) has scored in three straight games while Mikko Koivu(notes) had a goal and an assist to push his point streak to four games. Koivu ended a 10-game goal drought Wednesday and has six points in his last three contests.