We’re less than two weeks into the season, and already the Minnesota Wild and Edmonton Oilers are squaring off for the second time. It only seems that the Wild plays half its games every year against the Oilers. If it were completely true, Minnesota would be hosting playoff tailgating parties every April. The Wild has had Edmonton’s number in recent years, rattling off eight straight against them. Still, there is a sense of confidence emanating from northern Alberta with youngsters Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall making immediate impacts this season.
The Oilers dropped a 2-1 decision on Tuesday to arch rival, Calgary. Tom Gilbert opened the scoring, but the Flames retaliated with two third period goals on Devan Dubnyk, who stopped 26 shots.
Wild at Oilers will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North with a start time at 8:30 PM. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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The San Jose Sharks appear on the ice after skating out of a giant shark head. When the Calgary Flames emerge from the locker room, giant fireballs burst overhead. While the Oilers skating out under a big oil tower doesn’t sound exciting, it’s actually one of those things unique to Edmonton that make you glad you arrived at the game early.
There are two players in the top 10 in goal scoring that were first overall picks in their respective draft years. One of them is New York’s John Tavares with five, and another is last year’s top draft choice, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. In five games, the baby-faced whiz kid has already lit the lamp four times and has a head start on the Calder Trophy.
When Clutterbuck gets the puck anywhere within range of the opponent’s net, he’s shooting and he’s shooting high. By now, goaltenders probably know what’s coming, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to stop his howitzer. Clutterbuck scored for the second straight game on Tuesday in true Clutter fashion. He had Koivu on his left. He had space to skate in on goaltender Brent Johnson. It didn’t matter as he wired a shot under the cross bar.
The Wild’s Opening Night blitzing of the Columbus Blue Jackets looked like a preview of things to come from the Wild’s top line of Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi. The trio accounted for two goals and was buzzing the entire game.
The buzzing continued, but the scoring dissipated. On Tuesday, Head Coach Mike Yeo looked for a spark and flip-flopped Pierre-Marc Bouchard with Setoguchi. Yeo could go back to the original tonight, but he seems to have reached the point of looking for the right mix.
On Tuesday, a Pittsburgh player wound up and fired a slap shot toward Niklas Backstrom, but the puck never got there. It was absorbed by the upper body of Greg Zanon, who went down in a heap and then quickly made his way to the locker room to get checked out. Two years ago, we would have wondered if he was okay. By now, we know he will be and the Wild’s blocked shots leader will be on the ice tonight for his 400th career game.
Yeo may shuffle things up tonight, but it appears he’ll start with his original lines:
Mike Lundin (back) did not travel with the team to Edmonton.
"He made a mistake in the D-zone, so we had to fix that.”
-- Mike Yeo joking about his Wednesday practice “fight” with rookie Brett Bulmer
D Tom Gilbert was a former standout at Bloomington Jefferson. D Andy Sutton was a member of the Wild’s inaugural team. D Cam Barker appeared in 71 games for the Wild, including last season. C Eric Belanger tallied 108 points in 214 games for the Wild from 2007 to 2010. LW Ryan Jones was a fourth round pick of the Wild in 2004.
The Wild’s 14 wins in Edmonton are its most in any opposing city, and its 35 wins overall against the Oilers are the most as well.