Wild open second half against Maple Leafs

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Toronto (17-22-8) at Minnesota (23-20-3) 8:00 p.m. EST

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (Ticker) -- Niklas Backstrom helped the

Minnesota Wild overcome a dismal stretch with a surge just ahead

of the All-Star break.

Backstrom and the Wild look to continue their momentum when they

open the second half against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.

After enduring a 4-9-1 slide from December 5-17 that included a

six-game losing streak, Minnesota bounced back with a 6-4-1

record over its last 11 contests, moving to within two points of

the eighth-place Anaheim Ducks (23-21-5) in the Western

Conference at the All-Star break.

Backstrom, the Wild's lone All-Star, led the turnaround, going

6-3-0 with a 1.96 goals-against average in his last nine starts.

His recent stellar play moved him to fifth in the NHL with a

2.22 GAA and he is tied for second place amongst netminders with

five shutouts this season.

The 30-year-old goaltender has been helped by a stingy Minnesota

defense, which has allowed 107 goals this season, tops in the

West.

However, the Wild rank 14th in the West with only 117 goals, but

should be able to find the back of the net against the Maple

Leafs, who have allowed 168 goals - second-most in the Eastern

Conference.

Toronto closed the first half of the campaign with a 1-5-2

record that included a 4-3 shootout loss to the Boston Bruins on

Wednesday.

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