Wild-Oilers Preview

The Associated Press

The Minnesota Wild are hoping to pick up where they left off before the Olympic break.

A matchup against the Western Conference-worst Edmonton Oilers could help them do just that.

The Wild try to continue their recent domination of the Oilers as these teams meet at Rexall Place on Thursday night.

Minnesota (31-21-7) built a comfortable lead for the West's first wild-card spot by going 11-4-2 from Jan. 2 to the break. Zach Parise had four goals and five assists as the Wild went 3-1-1 during a five-game stretch leading up to the Winter Games.

He and fellow Olympians Mikael Granlund and Ryan Suter are looking forward to getting back to business.

"You can tell that they've been playing at a high speed over there, and I expect them to step right in where they left off," coach Mike Yeo told the Wild's official website. "I'm hoping we can keep the momentum we had going into the break. Special team success is going to be a huge key to team success heading down the stretch."

While the Wild have dealt with their fair share of injuries, they've found ways to get it done. It's unclear if captain Mikko Koivu will be back on the ice after missing the last 15 games - and the Olympics - due to a fractured ankle.

"I think we've got good character," said Jason Pominville, who leads the team with 22 goals and 40 points. "A lot of guys stepped up in different situations. It wasn't easy at times. You could tell that we were missing some of our key guys, but I think other guys kind of found a way to adjust their game and get adjusted to the level of our play that you have to be successful night in and night out.

"We've just got to focus on winning games."

The Wild have piled up victories against the Oilers over the years, going 31-9-2 in the series dating to February 2007. Minnesota has allowed just 15 goals in going 7-1-0 during their last eight visits to Edmonton.

The Wild took this season's first meeting 4-1 on Jan. 16 behind a goal and an assist from Pominville, giving him eight points in his last six games versus Edmonton.

The Oilers (20-33-7) went 5-1-1 heading into the break, and Taylor Hall reached the 20-goal mark for the third time in his four-year career in their 2-1 overtime loss to New Jersey on Feb. 7.

It's unclear who will be in goal as the Oilers open a five-game homestand. Ilya Bryzgalov is 2-0-1 with a 1.97 goals-against average in his last three starts, and Ben Scrivens is 3-1-0 with a 1.50 mark and one shutout in his last four.

"It's hard to say," coach Dallas Eakins told the team's official website. "I don't have a crystal ball next to me. It'll depend on their play. It may come down to if Ben plays well and Bryz is playing well, yeah we may give Ben a couple of extra starts. I think Bryz would understand that. Or, we might split it down the middle. I won't know until we get started here."

Unfortunately for the Oilers, Niklas Backstrom could be in goal for Minnesota after missing 11 of the last 12 games due to a lingering abdominal injury. Backstrom is 25-4-1 with four shutouts and a 1.91 GAA in the series, his most wins against any team.

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