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Can the Wild Avoid a Slip vs Oilers?

(Sports Network) – The Minnesota Wild are hoping a victory over the NHL’s top team can jump start a winning streak.

The Wild will look to avoid a letdown this evening against the club with the fewest points in the Western Conference as they visit the Edmonton Oilers and Rexall Place.

Minnesota had been outscored 13-2 in losing three straight before a big 4-0 victory over visiting Vancouver on Sunday. The Canucks lead the NHL with 64 points, while the Wild are tied for 10th in the West with 49 points.

With both Jose Theodore and Niklas Backstrom battling injury, Anton Khudobin made his third career start and second straight, notching 32 saves for his first career shutout.

“They play 60 minutes. It doesn’t matter what the score is,” said the 24-year- old Khudobin. “They just play as hard as they can. I was ready for that.”

Matt Cullen matched a career high with his third short-handed goal of the season, while Andrew Brunette, Martin Havlat and John Madden also scored in the victory.

Minnesota now opens a four-game road trip and it is unknown who will get the start in net. Theodore is questionable with his aliment, while Backstrom was able to dress as the backup on Sunday. He hasn’t appeared in a game since Dec. 31.

Backstrom is an outstanding 16-2-1 with a 1.76 goals-against average versus the Oilers, while Theodore is 5-10-0 with a 3.72 GAA. Khudobin has faced them just once in relief, stopping all nine shots faced for a victory in his NHL debut on Feb. 4 of last season.

The Wild picked up a pair of 4-2 victories over the Oilers back in October, with their 4-2 triumph at Edmonton on Oct. 21 snapping a seven-game winning streak by the home team in this series.

The triumph also halted Minnesota’s three-game slide at Rexall Place and was its third win in the last four meetings overall.

The Oilers will try to take back home-ice advantage tonight after posting a 1-4-0 mark on a recent road trip. Edmonton closed out the swing on Sunday in Anaheim with a 3-2 loss.

Rookie Magnus Paajarvi and Sam Gagner scored 26 seconds apart late in the second period for Edmonton, while Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 25 shots in his eighth straight loss.

“We thought tonight we did a good job of sustaining cycles and keeping the puck in their end. We made it difficult on them,” Gagner said of his line.

Edmonton, which is last in the West with just 35 points, will play its next three games at home, where it has lost four of its last five.

Khabibulin, who hasn’t won since Dec. 16, is 4-9-2 with a 2.54 GAA versus the Wild franchise.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.