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The Minnesota Wild rode a strong start to a franchise-record win total last season. Early this year, it appears they're determined to put together a repeat performance.
The Wild go for their third straight win on Wednesday when they host the Edmonton Oilers in a matchup between Northwest Division rivals.
Minnesota had never started a season with back-to-back wins before last season, when the Wild won their first six games en route to their first 100-point season in franchise history and first playoff appearance since 2003.
They're hoping to build on last season's success with one of the top goalies in the league. In his rookie season last year, Niklas Backstrom led the NHL with a 1.97 goals-against average and .929 save percentage as a part-time starter. He and Manny Fernandez won the Jennings Trophy after Minnesota finished the year with a league-low 184 goals allowed.
Backstrom became the full-time goalie after the Wild traded Fernandez in the offseason. He made 27 saves in a 1-0 season-opening victory over Chicago on Thursday - the sixth shutout of his young career.
Backstrom, though, needed some help from his offense on Saturday, when the Wild (2-0-0) rallied from a 2-1 deficit for a 3-2 win over Columbus. Brian Rolston assisted on third-period goals by Eric Belanger and Brent Burns to help the Wild improve to 9-1-1 in their last 11 games at home dating to last season.
"Our willingness to keep going and keep working, we got the puck from that, we got a good bounce, and that's how we got a couple breakaways," said Wild coach Jacques Lemaire, whose team had 29 home wins last year, second-most in the NHL behind Calgary.
Two of Backstrom's shutouts his rookie season came against Edmonton (2-1-0). He allowed only two goals while stopping 90 shots in four games against the Oilers - all Wild victories. Overall, Minnesota won six of eight in the series, including the last five by a combined 17-2.
The Oilers opened the season with back-to-back home wins, but lost 4-2 at Detroit on Monday. Goalie Dwayne Roloson stopped 31 of 34 shots, but the Oilers managed only 20 shots as the Red Wings controlled possession of the puck.
Edmonton, which was 27th in the league with a 14.2 power play percentage last season, went 0-for-4 with the man advantage and is 0-for-12 this season. The Oilers were tied for sixth with an 84.6 penalty kill percentage a year ago, but conceded a power-play goal for the third straight game on Monday.
"We took too many penalties early," Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said.
Despite the loss, the Oilers were encouraged by the play of rookie forward Andrew Cogliano, who scored his first NHL goal. Cogliano, who also has two assists, has registered a point in his first three games.
Minnesota wing Marian Gaborik, who doesn't have a point yet this year, had seven goals and four assists in seven games against Edmonton in 2006-07.