Thrashers-Wild Preview

Hosting their final two games before the Olympic break should boost the Minnesota Wild's chances of climbing the standings. The Atlanta Thrashers may have a tough time doing so considering their road struggles.

Minnesota hosts Atlanta for the first time in more than three years Friday as it tries to keep the Thrashers winless in St. Paul.

The Wild (29-26-4) are in 12th place in the West and the Thrashers are tied for 10th in the East, but both teams are very close to being in playoff position in their respective conferences.

Each will be trying to move up during their final two games before the two-week Olympic break, but Minnesota might have an easier time as it plays both contests at Xcel Energy Center while Atlanta is on the road for its final two.

The Wild had won four straight at home before a 3-2 loss to red-hot Phoenix on Wednesday. They had been 9-0-1 in their previous 10 home games.

Martin Havlat scored his third goal in as many games with 2:28 to play, but Minnesota couldn't tie the game despite outshooting the Coyotes 13-8 in the final period.

"We started strong and finished strong," Niklas Backstrom said. "If we just play like that for 60 minutes, I think we have a chance."

Backstrom recorded 28 saves as he returned after missing six games because of back problems and an undisclosed illness. He's 1-3-1 with a 3.98 goals-against average in his last five starts.

However, Backstrom is 1-0-1 with a 1.91 GAA against Atlanta, and the Wild are 6-0-1 with one tie in the all-time series. That record includes three wins and a tie in St. Paul, though the Thrashers haven't visited since a 5-1 loss Jan. 2, 2007.

Atlanta (25-24-9) has lost four of five overall, including three straight on the road after a 4-3 overtime defeat at Colorado on Wednesday. The Thrashers blew a 3-1 lead in the third period and Johan Hedberg gave up the game-winner nine seconds into overtime.

"I saw two defenseman not taking anybody in front of the net," coach John Anderson said. "They let him walk right in. I've never seen that in my life before."

Anderson's team is 3-12-4 on the road since early December and is 3 for 53 on the power play in the last 15 road games, including 0 for 4 on Wednesday.

The loss came a day after Atlanta traded Kari Lehtonen, whose 94 wins and 204 games played are club records for a goaltender, to Dallas for defenseman Ivan Vishnevskiy and a fourth-round pick. That move came less than a week after the Thrashers traded leading scorer and team captain Ilya Kovalchuk to New Jersey.

Hedberg is 1-5-4 with a 3.01 GAA in his last 10 road games, but Ondrej Pavelec has been even worse with a 1-6-0 record and a 5.09 GAA in his last eight starts away from home.