THE STORY: After kicking off a four-game road trip by absorbing their worst beating of the season, the New Jersey Devils are in the unenviable predicament of trying to rebound against the best team in the Western Conference. And no, the opponent is not one of the usual suspects such as Vancouver, Detroit or Chicago. The surprising Minnesota Wild, who trail the Pittsburgh Penguins by one point for the most points in the NHL, will look to build on a record-setting month when they host the Devils on Friday night. Winners of seven of their last nine, the Wild will go for their third consecutive victory after compiling an 11-4-0 mark in November, setting a franchise record for wins in one month. New Jersey has dropped two in a row after getting throttled by the Colorado Avalanche 6-1 on Wednesday. “Good teams can’t drop three in a row, that’s for sure,” Devils star winger Ilya Kovalchuk said.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, RIS, MSG
ABOUT THE DEVILS (12-10-1): New Jersey’s offense has gone into a freeze, mustering only five goals in the past four games. One culprit is a power play that has produced one goal in the last 15 chances. The Devils have yielded a league-worst six shorthanded goals, including three in the last five games. One constant is the penalty kill, which has killed off 53 of the last 54 opposing plays and ranks No. 1 in the league at 94.2 percent.
ABOUT THE WILD (15-7-3): After opening the season with six losses in the first nine games, Minnesota has gone 12-4 since. During that stretch, the Wild have allowed two goals or fewer in each victory. Minnesota erased a two-goal deficit in a 3-2 shootout win at Edmonton on Wednesday. It was the Wild’s league-best ninth win after surrendering the first goal of the game. Mikko Koivu has three goals and seven assists in a career high-tying seven-game points streak.
1. Wild G Niklas Backstrom is winless in three career starts (0-2-1) against the Devils, while New Jersey’s Martin Brodeur is 7-1-2-0 lifetime against Minnesota.
2. The Wild are expected to be without LWs Cal Clutterbuck and Darroll Powe, who both are dealing with thigh injuries. Devils RW Dainius Zubrus is expected to play.
PREDICTION: Wild 2, Devils 1.