The Minnesota Wild’s eight days in Finland included two regular season games, a preseason game, several team dinners, a much ballyhooed trip to Sauna Island and two looooong airplane rides. The five days since the team returned have included practice, practice and some more practice. Tonight, that finally ends when the Wild welcomes the undefeated Edmonton Oilers for its 2010-2011 Home Opener. Andrew Brunette, who has been hobbled this week by a strained hip flexor, is expected to be in the lineup tonight.
The Wild hasn’t played since Friday, when it fell to the Carolina Hurricanes in a shootout, 2-1. Minnesota dominated for nearly 65 minutes, but couldn’t find a way to solve Canes netminder Cam Ward, who stopped 41 shots, and three shootout attempts. Brunette tallied the only Wild goal of the game, while Niklas Backstrom stopped 36 of 37 shots, but still took the loss.
The upstart Oilers play their first road game of the season tonight after pushing their record to 2-0-0 with a 3-2 win over Florida on Sunday. Dustin Penner, Shawn Horcoff and former Wild prospect Ryan Jones tallied the goals. Nikolai Khabibulin turned in 26 saves for his second straight victory.
Wild vs. Oilers will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North at 7:30 PM. The game can be heard on 830 WCCO AM, or online at Wild.com.
Note to DISH Network Subscribers: You will not be able to watch tonight's broadcast. For more information on what you should do to see Wild games on Fox Sports North broadcasts, click here.
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When some people think of Red Carpets, they think L.A. or New York, but tonight, St. Paul shows all of them how it’s done. But for a truly unique experience, duck out of work a little early and make your way to the Red Carpet Entrance and Pre-Game Party. From 4:15 to 5:15, fans can line the Red Carpet outside RiverCentre and welcome Wild players as they emerge from limousines and make their way toward the locker room. The ensuing party will include live music, food, beverages, interactive games, prizes and much more. Eat your heart out P. Diddy!
Two wins in two games has only added to the excitement of Oiler fans, who can’t stop fidgeting with excitement when they think of prized rookies Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall. But what’s been key for the Oilers is the return of key veterans like Nikolai Khabibulin and Ales Hemsky. Khabibulin appeared in just 18 games last year, but he’s already posted two wins and a shutout in his return. Hemsky averaged a point per game last year, but the problem was he only played 22 due to shoulder surgery. He is also back, giving the new-look Oilers some old scoring punch.
Mikko Koivu is still looking for his first goal, but that doesn’t mean he’s struggling. In fact, you could say he was the most noticeable player from either team in Finland. He assisted on two goals, but the facets of Koivu’s game that stood out the most was his faceoff prowess (he won 21 of 25 draws on Friday) and his physical play (three hits and three blocked shots on Friday).
The Wild is trying to keep a couple streaks alive tonight. Minnesota has never lost its home opener, and has won the last eight home openers, including last year’s rally from 3-0 down in the third period. The Wild has also won 13 straight home games against Edmonton by a combined score of 46-16. That last Oiler win in St. Paul came in January of 2007.
Look for the Wild’s power play to get a boost with the return of Marek Zidlicky to the lineup. With Zidlicky missing two games with a groin injury, Nick Schultz was forced into power play duty. Zidlicky’s bomb of a shot provides another weapon for the unit that went 2-for-9 against Carolina.
"The hockey was being played in the neutral zone, and fans were cheering."
- Todd Richards talking about his memories from last year's Opening Night, which coincided with the Twins defeating the Detroit Tigers in Game 163.
D Kurtis Foster played four seasons with the Wild, and scored his first two NHL goals in his first game in a Minnesota sweater. D Tom Gilbert hails from Bloomington and was a former Jefferson Jaguar. D Taylor Chorney was raised in Hastings. Jones was picked by the Wild in the fourth round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. C Sam Gagner’s father, Dave, is a former Minnesota North Star.
The Wild’s 13-game home win streak against Edmonton is one shy of the longest current home win streak by one team over another. Nashville has won 14 straight at home over Columbus.