The day after Thanksgiving and the Wild is alone atop the NHL standings. Tonight, the Edmonton Oilers visit Xcel Energy Center for an afternoon matinee. Minnesota has faced Edmonton twice this season (once at home and once on the road) with both games going to a shootout, and both games going to the Wild. The Wild has owned the Oilers lately, winning eight straight games versus Edmonton overall, and 17 in a row at home. The Oilers haven’t beaten the Wild at Xcel Energy Center since a 2-1 decision (1/16/07).
The Wild is on a five-game winning streak after a thrilling comeback victory over Nashville Wednesday night, 3-2. Minnesota scored three third period goals after trailing the Predators by a goal for a majority of the first two periods. Kyle Brodziak, Dany Heatley and Cal Clutterbuck each scored in the third period rally and Josh Harding made 23 saves. Mikko Koivu added two assists for the Wild.
On Tuesday night, the Oilers also faired well against the Predators winning 6-2 in Nashville. Jordan Eberle and Shawn Horcoff each had a pair of goals and Ales Hemsky and Jeff Petry added a goal apiece. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk shut the door against the Preds making 30 saves on the night.
Wild vs. Oilers will be broadcast locally in high definition on Fox Sports North with a start time at 3 PM. The game can be heard on KFAN 100.3 FM or online at Wild.com.
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The Wild celebrates its Movember efforts tonight. The two fan finalists of the Best Mo contest will be invited to make the Let’s Play Hockey announcement. The winner of the Best Mo will receive travel certificates from Sun Country Airlines and a chance to meet Nick Schultz after the game for a photo opportunity. Other special events include: Barber Shop quartet at Gate 1; Moustache giveaway to all fans; Sun Country Airlines t-shirts given away to the first 1,500 men with moustaches as they enter arena; Mo Cam in place of Kiss Cam; Text your Mo to video board and the sale of fleece scarves to benefit Movember. Also, off the ice, the Wild and Oilers are competing in the MoGrow Faceoff to raise money for Movember.
The Oilers’ first-overall pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is proving dividends in his first season. The rookie had five assists last week against Chicago (11/19) - most ever for an 18-year-old in one game - scored the Oilers' lone goal at Dallas (11/21) and added two more helpers against Nashville (11/22). He has 22 points on the season, good for 10th in the NHL and leads all rookies in scoring.
Mikko Koivu looks like he’s found his scoring touch and has taken over the team lead in points with 15 (3g, 12a). The Wild captain has five points in his last three games. In his last two, Koivu scored two goals and added a SO goal against St. Louis (11/19), then followed that performance up with two assists against Nashville (11/23).
No one predicted that the Wild would lead the NHL at the quarter mark, but just as unlikely to the prognosticators has been the Oilers. Edmonton is 11-8-2 and in second place in the Northwest Division. However, as stated earlier, the Wild has owned the Oilers of late, but this should be a tight one with both meetings earlier this season going to a shootout. Also of note, the Wild has won its last six games at home and are 8-2-1 at Xcel Energy Center on the year.
Wild goaltender Niklas Backstrom was slated to start against Nashville, but didn’t dress due to personal reasons. Harding stepped in seamlessly and led the team to its 13th victory. The Wild had to sign 51-year-old emergency backup Paul Deutsch because of fears that recalled Houston goalie Matt Hackett wouldn’t make it to the game on time. Hackett is still on the roster and no word if Backstrom will rejoin the team tonight, but he did skate in yesterday’s practice.
With only 12 active forwards, the Wild lines should stay the same:
“I would love to see our guys get some recognition for what they’ve done…but so far, what our guys have shown is that they’re not satisfied.”
- Mike Yeo on the Wild getting attention from the national media
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.
According to Elias Sports Bureau, a victory today would give the Wild the longest active home win streak in the NHL over one opponent since Philadelphia won 23 straight against Pittsburgh from 1980-87.