For the fourth time this season, the Wild and Oilers will square off tonight. Still fresh in Minnesota’s memory is the 5-2 loss suffered to the Oilers the day after Thanksgiving. The game was a testy affair, but that is what we’ve come to expect when these two teams get together. The loss snapped a 17-game home winning streak against the Oilers at Xcel Energy Center. Tonight, the Wild looks to keep another streak alive against the Oilers; Minnesota has won its last four games in Edmonton. With the Wild on top of the Northwest Division and the Oilers fighting to keep pace, this should be another heated contest.
The Wild is coming off of a 3-1 home victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning. In the game, David McIntyre made his NHL debut, Mike Lundin made his Wild debut, Casey Wellman made his Wild season debut and Greg Zanon skated in his first game in more than a month. Two Wild players hit career milestones in the game: Cal Clutterbuck scored a short-handed goal that was the 50th goal of his career and Mikko Koivu iced the game with an empty-netter, his 100th career goal. Pierre-Marc Bouchard put home the game-winner, his third of the season. Niklas Backstom shut down the much-vaunted Lightning offense, making 32 saves.
On Monday, the Oilers suffered a 2-1 loss at the hands of the Nashville Predators. The Oilers’ Jordan Eberle opened the scoring in the first period, but the Predators responded with two unanswered strikes, including the go-ahead goal with 7:39 to play at Rexall Place. Nikolai Khabibulin made his 16th start of the year making 29 saves on the 31 shots.
Wild vs. 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.
Click here to receive Minnesota Wild broadcast alerts/game day previews each Wild Game day.
Tonight marks the final day of Movember, so, if you’re going to tonight’s game you’re in for ‘staches on both sides of the rink. Off the ice, the Wild and Oilers are engaged in the MoGrow Faceoff, a fundraiser for cancer related research. If you want the Wild to win off the ice, donate to Nick Schultz’s Mo Bro page as this week’s matchup is against Sam Gagner in the MoCaptains division of the competition.
The Oilers start a six-game homestand tonight and will have to do so without the services of left wing Taylor Hall, who is expected to be out of the lineup for 2-4 weeks after suffering a shoulder injury Saturday night against Colorado. Without Hall, the Oilers’ top-line of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ryan Smyth and Eberle will have to continue to provide the offensive punch. So far they’ve been up to the task, all averaging at least a point per game.
Koivu is on a six-game point streak dating back to Nov. 17 – the longest point streak by a Wild player this season. During the streak, Koivu has compiled nine points (3-6=9). Clutterbuck has also picked up the scoring lately, posting five points in as many games, including three goals.
The Wild’s home dominance over the Oilers came to an end last week, but Minnesota would like to keep its road supremacy over Edmonton going. A big reason the Wild has owned the Oil: Backstrom. The Oilers must cringe when they seek Backstrom taking shots in warm-ups. This season he is 2-0-0 with a 0.93 GAA and a .962 SV%. Lifetime, he is 20-2-1 with a 1.66 GAA, a .938 SV% and four shutouts in 25 starts against the Oilers.
Wild defenseman Lundin and Zanon, riding a wave of adrenalin, were both solid against Tampa Bay. Head Coach Mike Yeo said that he will be looking to see if the D-men can put that kind of effort in back-to-back games. Lundin made his return after a back injury has kept him sidelined since pre-season. Zanon missed just over a month with a groin injury. Both play similar styles and look to be steady defensive-minded blueliners.
Colton Gillies was a healthy scratch last game, but it looks as though he will replace Wellman:
The blueline was solid in its last outing and no changes are expected:
Aforementioned Backstrom has been a thorn in the Oilers’ side. Coming off of a 32 save performance, expect to see Backstrom back in goal tonight.
Wellman is on the trip and likely the lone healthy scratch.
Justin Falk is dealing with an upper-body injury and didn’t make the trip to Edmonton.
“We've played them a few times this year already, and certainly there is a rivalry there. Our teams have played each other hard. We weren't very good last game and we have to come back and respond to that."
- Mike Yeo on the Wild's matchup with Edmonton this season
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.
Since the lockout, 76 percent of teams (73 of 96) holding a playoff spot after games played Nov. 30 have made the playoffs. Since the league expanded in 2000, no team holding the top spot in the conference/league on Nov. 30 has missed the playoffs (Wild need a point tonight to be 1st in conference).