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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."

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.



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