The Minnesota Wild used a sparkling effort from rookie goaltender Anton Khudobin(notes) to end its losing streak but coach Todd Richards might start Niklas Backstrom(notes) in the opener of a four-game road trip.
Backstrom’s stellar record against the Edmonton Oilers might have something to do with that decision.
Should he start, the Wild’s top goaltender will try to continue that dominance over the struggling Oilers on Tuesday night.
Khudobin was recalled from Minnesota’s AHL affiliate in Houston on Jan. 8 after Backstrom needed one more week to heal from a hip injury. The rookie started the past two games after Jose Theodore(notes) suffered a similar ailment.
Following a 4-1 loss to Colorado in his second career start Friday night, Khudobin stopped 32 shots in his first shutout Sunday, 4-0 against Western Conference-leading Vancouver. Before that victory, the Wild (22-18-5) had been outscored 13-2 in three straight defeats.
Backstrom was back on the bench for Sunday’s win and could start for the first time since Dec. 31. It is uncertain if Theodore will join him for the start of the trip.
“Healthwise, (Backstrom) is fine. It was just that he just hadn’t seen enough pucks yet, at least starting the game” Richards said. “Right now, I believe (Backstrom) will be able to start on Tuesday.”
Backstrom is 16-2-1 with a 1.76 goals-against average and four shutouts in 21 career starts against Edmonton (14-23-7). The 16 wins are the most in his career against one opponent and the GAA is his lowest versus a Western Conference team.
Backstrom helped the Wild to a pair of 4-2 victories over the Western Conference’s worst club in October, including one Oct. 21 at Rexall Place that snapped Minnesota’s 0-2-1 slide there. Former Oiler Kyle Brodziak(notes) scored two goals in the first 5:24 in that win, and Mikko Koivu(notes) had two goals and an assist in a home victory Oct. 14.
This time, Backstrom could face a team that’s been outscored 50-36 during a 3-11-2 stretch.
Edmonton’s 3-2 defeat to Anaheim on Sunday night was its fourth to end a five-game road trip, but it’s also 2-5-1 in its last eight home games.
In the loss to the Ducks, the Oilers failed to take advantage of a pair of late power-play opportunities, extending their streak of futility with a man advantage to 38 chances.
“The power play didn’t do what it needed to do again,” coach Tom Renney said. “When you bring a level of intensity to that part of your game, you have a chance. Maybe we learned something there at least. But we lost the hockey game probably because of it.
“The bottom line is when we stop beating ourselves, we’re going to win hockey games.”
With Nikolai Khabibulin(notes) suffering his eighth straight loss Sunday, Renney could look to Devan Dubnyk(notes), who had started the two previous games. Dubnyk stopped 25 shots in a 4-1 home win over the Wild on April 5, while Khabibulin has a 3.61 GAA in his two matchups this season.
The Wild are 5-1-1 in their last seven games against the Oilers but 2-6-1 in their last nine trips to Rexall.