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BIG Prediction: Minnesota Wild vs Edmonton Oilers (11/30/11)

It’s safe to say Niklas Backstrom bounced back after a horrible first period performance last Sunday.

Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo had no reservations about giving Niklas Backstrom the nod following his worst effort of the season. There’s no reason to think Yeo will hesitate to put Backstrom back in net considering his success against the Edmonton Oilers.

Less than a week after Minnesota’s lengthy home winning streak in this Northwest Division matchup was snapped, Backstrom will make a third straight start Wednesday night when the division leading Wild go for their fifth straight victory visiting the Oilers.

Back in net for the first time after missing three games due to a personal matter, Backstrom was pulled just 8:45 into Sunday’s 5-2 loss to Calgary after giving up three goals on eight shots. The veteran netminder, though, turned aside 32 shots Monday when Minnesota (14-7-3) closed its season high six game homestand with a 3-1 victory against Tampa Bay.

Backstrom posted a 0.93 goals against average while winning the first two games against Edmonton (12-10-2) this season, and he’s 20-2-1 with a 1.66 GAA in 25 starts lifetime. He missed Friday’s game against the Oilers as backup Josh Harding yielded four goals in a 5-2 home loss that ended the Wild’s season high tying five-game winning streak.

Minnesota had also won eight in a row overall against Edmonton and 17 straight at home in this matchup.

Oilers center Taylor Hall had a goal and an assist in that contest for his first career points against the Wild, but the second year forward is sidelined for at least two weeks after he suffered a left shoulder injury in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to Colorado.

Hall has seven goals and is tied for the team lead with four on the power play. The Oilers are 0 for 6 with the man advantage while losing two in a row.

Magnus Paajarvi replaced Hall on Monday and is expected to remain on the line with captain Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky.

Rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Smyth will also have to step up their game without the No. 1 overall pick in 2010. The trio has four goals and five assists against Minnesota this season after Nugent-Hopkins scored twice, Smyth added a goal and an assist and Eberle set up two goals Friday.

Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin snapped a personal seven game losing streak against the Wild in that matchup with 30 saves, but he allowed just two goals in regulation in the first two matchups in 2011-12, with Minnesota posting 2-1 shootout victories in both.

The Oilers were on the verge of snapping a four game home skid to the Wild on Oct. 20 before Dany Heatley scored the game tying goal with two seconds left in regulation. Heatley has five goals and nine points in his last seven games at Rexall Place.

Wild center Mikko Koivu, who scored his 100th career goal Monday, has three goals and six assists during a six-game point streak. His assist on Devin Setoguchi’s first period goal Friday is his only point against Edmonton this season.

These clubs conclude their six game season series before New Year’s Eve.


Minnesota Wild – Niklas Backstrom

Edmonton Oilers – Nikolai Khabibulin


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