Oilers visit Wild in search of fourth straight win

By Nicolino DiBenedetto
Stats Writer

Edmonton (35-27-9) at Minnesota (33-30-8) 3:00 p.m. EDT

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (AP) — The Edmonton Oilers haven’t won a
road game against the Minnesota Wild in over two years, and
Niklas Backstrom has been a big reason why.

The Oilers will try to snap that slide by matching their
season-high winning streak Saturday when they visit the
sputtering Wild, who hope Backstrom can bounce back from an ugly
effort and continue his success versus Edmonton.

The Oilers (35-27-9) are 0-7-2 in their last nine games at
Minnesota (33-30-8), getting outscored 33-11 since posting a 2-1
win there on Jan. 16, 2007. They took the last meeting 3-2 at
Edmonton on Feb. 28.

It’s Backstrom who has dominated Edmonton in 14 career starts,
going 11-1-0 with a 1.80 GAA and three shutouts. Those shutouts
have come at home, where he’s won all nine meetings with a 1.21
GAA.The goaltender expects to be back in net after allowing
three goals on 11 shots before getting pulled in the second
period on Friday in a 4-0 loss at New Jersey.

Edmonton hopes its current form will help it end its losing
streak in the Twin Cities. The team is on a three-game winning
streak for the first time since opening the season with four
consecutive wins.

The Oilers maintained that run Friday, beating Chicago 5-4 in a
shootout a night after an 8-1 victory at Colorado. Those wins
are also part of their impressive 4-0-3 stretch, which has moved
them into seventh in the Western Conference playoff race, two
points ahead of eighth-place Nashville.

“It was tough,” Oilers left wing Patrick O’Sullivan said of the
back-to-back stretch. “Every team has to go through it, but
points are critical right now. Seventy games in, you’re going to
be a little bit tired.”

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Dwayne Roloson, a member of the Wild from 2001-06, doesn’t
appear to be showing any signs of fatigue. The goaltender has
started a team-record 27 consecutive games, going 13-8-6 with a
2.77 goals-against average in that stretch.

However, he’s been even better of late, compiling a 1.90 GAA in
winning the last three games. Roloson made 39 saves against the
Blackhawks with one coming on a third-period penalty shot by
Jonathan Toews.

“He’s an absolute warrior,” Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said.

Roloson, though, is 0-5-2 with a 3.62 GAA in his last seven
games at Minnesota.

The Wild are three points back of the Predators for the final
playoff position in the conference after a 3-6-4 stretch. That
poor run has been aided by a power-play unit that has gone
5-for-44, while failing to convert on its last 12 chances over
three games.

Minnesota went 0-for-7 on the man advantage in Friday’s loss,
falling for the fifth time in six games (1-2-3).

“We couldn’t come up nothing,” Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said.
“We had power plays and a lot of time on it. We didn’t build on
it. We got nothing.”

The Wild could use some offensive help from Mikko Koivu, their
leader with 62 points. The center has been held without a point
for three games after netting a goal with three assists in the
previous three.

Koivu has been a big part of Minnesota’s home success against
the Oilers, getting a goal and 10 assists in the last seven
matchups there.

After hosting Edmonton, Minnesota starts a four-game trip at the
New York Rangers on Tuesday before playing four of its remaining
six regular-season games at home.