After ending a winless streak Tuesday, the Wild returns to St. Paul, looking to continue a different sort of record. Minnesota will face Edmonton tonight on home ice, where it has won 15 straight games against the Oilers, last falling 2-1 on Jan. 16, 2007.
The Wild's 15-game domination is just one game shy of the longest current home win streak by one team over another in the NHL, according to Elias Sports Bureau (Nashville's 16 straight wins at home vs. Columbus). Minnesota has reached the streak with a combined 54-19 score, including four shutouts. During the streak, the Wild has limited the Oilers to two goals or less in all but one game (5-4 Wild win on Dec. 29, 2007).
The Wild will look to continue the streak tonight after capturing a 3-2 shootout win in St. Louis Tuesday. Eric Nystrom and Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored in regulation, before Mikko Koivu notched the deciding goal in the extra session. Jose Theodore made 26 saves, plus two in the shootout, to earn the win.
The Oilers enter tonight's contest following a 2-0 loss to the Kings in Edmonton. The Oilers allowed two second-period goals and Nikolai Khabibulin made 31 saves in the loss.
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Wild vs. Oilers will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North at 7:00 PM. The game can be heard on WCCO 830 AM or online at Wild.com.
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In addition to getting in on some hockey action, fans have a lot of reason to come down to Xcel Energy Center tonight. The 2011 Wild Fan Celebration starts tonight, with the first 3,500 fans receiving the puck depicting the fan-voted Top Moment in Wild history, Andrew Brunette's playoff goal against Colorado in 2003. All fans in attendance will also be eligible to win the jerseys the Wild players wear in tonight's game and get the sweaters off their backs in a special on-ice ceremony postgame.
Additionally, tonight's game will be the final opportunity to bid on the Wild Better Halves "Our Favorite Things" baskets. Girlfriends and wives of Wild players gathered the couples' favorite things and will auction them off in Section 104 tonight. Each basket includes at least one player-autographed item and all proceeds benefit the Minnesota Wild Foundation.
As they work to rebuild, the Oilers find themselves as the last-placed team in the NHL. Edmonton also finds itself finishing the season without leading goal-scorer Taylor Hall, last year's No. 1 draft pick who injured his left ankle during his first NHL fight earlier this month. But even without Hall, the Oilers still have plenty of offensive threats, including Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky, who are tied for the team lead with 42 points, and Jordan Eberle, who has 39 points in his rookie season.
After St. Louis took the lead in the third period Tuesday, Pierre- Marc Bouchard scored a huge goal to even the game, a dazzling display just over two minutes after the Blues grabbed the home crowd's support. PMB then shined in the shootout, opening the session with a burst of speed and a quick release on his forehand.
Bouchard is likely to keep his hot streak going tonight against the Oilers, a team he excels against. He has 34 points (10-24=34) in 36 games against Edmonton, his highest point total against any team. Bouchard is just one point away from 300 in his career (87-212=299).
Winning cures a lot of problems and improves a lot of moods. Tuesday night's win allowed the players to breathe a sigh of relief and get the monkey off their backs. However, a smile or two was about all the guys allowed as they immediately talked about getting a win tonight in St. Paul, saying they owed the fans in St. Paul a solid effort and a home win.
Special teams played a big part in the Wild's game Tuesday and very well could be a deciding factor in tonight's contest. During the season series between Minnesota and Edmonton, 11 of the 22 goals have been scored on the power play (Wild 7, Oilers 4). The Wild power play ranks T-8th in the NHL at a 18.9% conversion rate, but Minnesota has a 43.75% rate against the Oilers this year (7-of-16). The Wild is 24-13-2 this season when scoring a power-play goal.
Chuck Kobasew will get back in the lineup after missing Tuesday's game with a leg injury. He will take Casey Wellman's spot in the lineup, who was reassigned to Houston today:
"For us, it's a confidence thing. Without a question, it gives you a little bit of an edge knowing you've had success against this team, and especially in this building."
-- Todd Richards on the Wild's 15-game win streak against Edmonton in St. Paul.
D Kurtis Foster skated four seasons with the Wild (2005-09), scoring his first two NHL goals in his first game with the Wild (11/19/05)…D Tom Gilbert (Minneapolis) is a Minnesota native…D Taylor Chorney was born in Thunder Bay, Ont., but was raised in Hastings…LW Ryan Jones was drafted by the Wild in the fourth round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft…C Sam Gagner’s father, Dave, played for the Minnesota North Stars (1987-93)…C Chris VandeVelde is a native of Moorhead.
The Wild has more wins against the Oilers (32) than any other NHL team.