The Edmonton Oilers will face a tough test against the Minnesota Wild, without the services of forward Taylor Hall.
Second on the team with 18 points, Hall scored his fourth goal in Friday’s 4-2 loss at St. Louis but exited in the second period after hitting the boards. Coach Ralph Krueger said Hall could miss a few days.
“Taylor was playing a good game,” left wing Ben Eager said. “When you’re down … you want him out there, he can create so much with his speed and his talent.”
The Oilers, who won 5-1 at Dallas the night before, led 2-0 after the first 20 minutes Friday before coming undone. Devan Dubnyk stopped 26 of 30 shots.
“They came with a good push and we’ve got to give them credit,” Eager said. “We played (Thursday night), that’s not an excuse, but with a two-goal lead on the road you’ve got to try to get out of here with some points.”
— Chris Nichols (@Nichols_NHLPool) March 3, 2013
Minnesota tries for a 19th home win in 20 matchups against Edmonton, which could be without one of its top forwards due to a leg injury.
Matt Cullen scored twice and added an assist as the Wild (10-8-2) pulled out a 3-1 road victory over the Oilers (8-8-4) on Feb. 21. Minnesota, which has outscored Edmonton 37-26 in going 11-2-0 since 2010-11, was upset with Hall’s hit on Clutterbuck with 2:33 left in the game.
Hall was given a major penalty for kneeing and ejected. He later received a two-game suspension from the league.
“You hate to see those hits,” Cullen said. “It was a fast play. I think it was deserving of the penalty. … Cal is a very important part of our team. … You hate to see a teammate on the ice.”
After concluding last month with four wins in five games, Minnesota opened March with Friday’s 3-2 loss at Anaheim. The Wild fell behind 3-0 but made things interesting behind third-period goals from Devin Setoguchi and Kyle Brodziak.
“It was by no means a lack of effort,” Cullen said. “We certainly came back awfully hard at the end to give ourselves a real good chance at winning the game. It’s a sign of improvement, sign of progress for this team.
“We got to keep moving forward. … We got a real big one coming up here (Sunday).”
Minnesota, which was outshot 12-8 in the first period Friday, held a 25-17 edge the rest of the way. The Wild have trailed 1-0 in each of their last six losses.
“I didn’t think our first period was good enough, for sure,” coach Mike Yeo said. “We have to start better against good teams.”
Darcy Kuemper made 26 saves against the Ducks, but Niklas Backstrom figures to be back in goal Sunday. The Finland native has been outstanding since Feb. 9, going 5-1-1 with a 1.66 goals-against average.
He turned away 27 shots last month at Edmonton, improving to 23-3-1 – his most wins against any team – with a 1.78 GAA lifetime in the series. Backstrom has compiled an even more impressive 1.30 mark while winning each of his 16 home matchups against the Oilers.
Dubnyk is 1-2-0 with a 2.01 GAA in three career starts versus Minnesota. He’s gone 4-3-1 on the road this season with a 2.09 GAA, significantly better than his 3.55 mark at home.