Columbus (32-28-10) at Minnesota (35-29-7)

By SANTOSH VENKATARAMAN, STATS Senior Writer Friday, Mar 18, 2011 Puck Drop: 2:00 pm EDT Sat Mar 19, 2011

Poor recent stretches have essentially ended the playoff hopes for the Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Wild will be seeking to end a four-game slide Saturday when they host the struggling Blue Jackets.

Minnesota (35-29-7) is in 11th place in the Western Conference with 77 points while Columbus (32-28-10) is 12th with 74. The Wild are mired in a 2-6-1 slump while the Blue Jackets are 1-5-4 in their last 10.

Scoring has been a major problem for both. The Wild have produced four goals over the last four games, and were shut out twice. The Blue Jackets have totaled 22 goals in their last 10.

Minnesota will be happy to be home for four games after losing all four games on a road trip that ended with Thursday’s 3-2 loss to San Jose. The Wild went 0 for 11 on the power play on the trip.

“Eleven (games) left, gotta win as many of those 11 as we can,” coach Todd Richards said. “We’ve got a big four-game homestand going home.”

Top scorer Martin Havlat(notes) managed one assist on the trip for Minnesota, which was outshot 50-30 in Thursday’s defeat.

“I think one thing we’ve been struggling with is the ups and downs of a hockey game,” center John Madden(notes) said. “You play hockey and stuff happens.”

Although Havlat has not scored a goal in four straight games, that drought may seem mild for Rick Nash(notes). The Blue Jackets captain has matched the longest one of his career by not scoring in 11 straight games.

His previous 11-game drought came in his rookie season after he scored in his first career game.

Nash and the Blue Jackets came up empty on 37 shots against backup goalie Joey MacDonald(notes) in Thursday’s 2-0 home loss to Detroit.

“We didn’t finish,” Nash said. “We had lots of opportunities but again we didn’t bear down. It’s been tough, the goalies have been playing well, but we’ve been having chances and letting up a bit.”

The Blue Jackets went 0 for 6 on the power play, dropping to 14.4 percent for the second-worst mark in the West.

Columbus is 0 for 32 on the power play over its last 13 games against the Wild. All three matchups this season have been one-goal games, with the teams splitting the first two before the Blue Jackets won the last one in a shootout.

Nash has a goal and two assists in the season series. Cal Clutterbuck(notes) has scored in all three matchups for Minnesota while Havlat has totaled three assists.

Niklas Backstrom(notes) is 7-3-0 with a 2.03 goals-against average in 11 career starts against the Blue Jackets while Jose Theodore(notes) is 6-3-2 with a 2.34 GAA in his 11.

Steve Mason(notes) is 0-2-1 with a 2.60 GAA in three career starts at the Xcel Energy Center while backup Mathieu Garon(notes) is 7-4-1 with a 2.63 GAA in 12 starts against the Wild.

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Saturday, Mar 19