Wild-Oilers Preview

The Associated Press

After emerging as perhaps the NHL's biggest surprise team, the Minnesota Wild will try again to end their first major slump of the season in the finale of what's been a punchless swing through western Canada.

Looking to avoid their sixth straight loss, the Wild meet the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night.

Minnesota fell 2-1 to Calgary on Tuesday, one night after being blanked by Vancouver. Despite scoring just six goals during their 0-3-2 skid, the Wild (20-10-5) still lead the Northwest Division.

"We've had the feeling all year long that we're never out of it, and we had that feeling again," forward Dany Heatley said Tuesday. "But even though you have that feeling, it doesn't mean you're going to come back every night. We kept coming at them, drew some penalties, created some chances, and we'll have to do the same thing in Edmonton on Thursday night."

Minnesota is 3-1-0 against Edmonton this season, with all three wins coming in shootouts - two on the road.

Injuries to key players have contributed to the Wild's recent woes. Mikko Koivu, the team captain and leading scorer with 28 points, has missed the last three games with a leg injury and his status for this contest is unclear.

Minnesota may miss Devin Setoguchi just as much against Edmonton. Out since Dec. 6 with a bad knee, Setoguchi has two of the Wild's six regulation goals versus the Oilers this season.

If Koivu and Setoguchi can't go, first-year coach Mike Yeo will look to Heatley to pick up the slack. Heatley, who is second on the team to Koivu with 22 points, has four goals and three assists during a four-game point streak at Rexall Place.

Niklas Backstrom, who was given the night off against the Flames, should be back in net Thursday. Backstrom is 3-0-0 with a 1.24 goals-against average versus the Oilers this season, and 6-2-1 with a 2.46 GAA in 11 career outings at Edmonton.

Before embarking on a season-high seven-game road trip, the Oilers (14-16-3) are trying to avoid their longest losing streak of the season. Edmonton dropped its fourth in a row Monday, 3-2 to Detroit.

"We played hard and I felt we were with them every step of the way," Edmonton coach Tom Renney said. "We worked hard and did a lot of good things. We have to stick with it. We can't feel sorry for ourselves. No one is going to hand you points. We have a couple of games to build on now and maybe we can start winning again."

Jordan Eberle scored for the second straight game Monday, tying Ryan Nugent-Hopkins for the team lead with 13 goals and 34 points. Eberle has a goal and four assists while Nugent-Hopkins has three goals and an assist versus Minnesota in 2011-12.

Selected first overall in the 2011 entry draft, Nugent-Hopkins has failed to find the back of the net in a season-high-tying five straight games, but he has posted four assists in that stretch.

Since beginning the season 7-0-2 with a 0.98 GAA, Nikolai Khabibulin has gone 3-8-1 with a 2.92 GAA. Khabibulin has just one win in his last nine starts against the Wild, meaning Renney may give Devan Dubnyk the start.

Dubnyk is 1-1-0 with a 1.51 GAA in his career when facing Minnesota.

The division rivals will wrap up their season series next Thursday in St. Paul.

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