Heading into the Christmas break, the Wild has its toughest stretch of the season. Tonight, Minnesota looks to get back in the win column tonight against the Edmonton Oilers. In recent history, this game would have been a great Christmas gift to get back on track as the Wild has dominated the matchup. However, in their last meeting on Nov. 25 at Xcel Energy Center, Edmonton won 5-2, breaking an eight-game Wild winning streak and 17-game home win streak. The Wild won the previous three decisions in shootouts this season.
The Wild will again be without the services of captain Mikko Koivu, and the team has placed him on the Injured Reserve. The Wild was hopeful for his return tonight, but he will rest his lower body injury through the Christmas holiday. In his absence, the team has recalled Hastings native Jeff Taffe. The forward has appeared in two games for the Wild this season and collected an assist in each game.
The team is coming off of a 2-1 loss in Calgary on Tuesday night. Pierre-Marc Bouchard scored the team’s lone goal in the effort. Josh Harding returned to goal after missing two weeks with an upper body injury and made 28 saves.
The Oilers suffered a 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Monday in Edmonton. Ryan Jones and Jordan Eberle scored second period goals for the Oilers, but the Drew Miller’s third period goal gave the Wings the win. Nikolai Khabibulin made 17 saves in the loss.
Wild at Flames 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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Fans attending tonight’s game will have an opportunity to experience the new 50/50 program at Rexall Place. Tickets for the new 50/50 are $5 each, three for $10 or ten for $20. Combined with the potential increase in tickets, fans now have the opportunity to take home a much larger pot.
The Oilers are young with a lot of potential up front. They started the season like a rocket, but have shot back down to earth of late. After a hot start, the young Oilers have won just twice in their past 11 games. Three of the team’s top four scorers are 21 or younger with Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall. Veteran Ryan Smyth is the old man of the group and leads Edmonton in career scoring against Minnesota with 39 points (18-21=39) in 55 games.
Bouchard scored his sixth goal of the season against the Flames. Bouchard leads the Wild in career points against the Oilers with 40 (10-30=40) in 41 contests, his highest point total versus any team and has registered a goal and an assist this season. Although the Wild has scored two goals in its last three games, the Bouchard, Matt Cullen and Dany Heatley line has had several good chances and looks like it is on the verge of breaking out.
Despite going winless in its last five outings, Minnesota is atop the Northwest Division. Whenever the Wild plays within the Division, the games are intense and physical affairs. Tonight should be no different as this is the fifth time the Wild has faced off against the Oliers, the most against any NHL opponent. As earlier stated, Wild fans could typically count on a W when these two teams met, but with three shootout victories and a loss in its last outing, again this should be a tough divisional matchup.
Although Taffe has only played in two games for the Wild, he has played significant minutes. Along with collecting assists in each game he logged an average of 15 minutes and 48 seconds. With Taffe likely in the lineup, look for him to contribute offensively along with a healthy amount of ice time.
"We can't sit around and wait for that. We have a job to do regardless."
- Mike Yeo on waiting for Koivu’s return
LW Ryan Jones was drafted by the Wild in the fourth round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. C Eric Belanger collected 108 points (39-69=108) in 214 games with the Wild (2007-10). D Andy Sutton spent parts of two seasons (2000-02) with the Wild. D Cam Barker skated 71 games with the Wild from 2010-11.
The Wild’s 16 wins in Edmonton are its most in any opposing city, and its 37 wins overall against the Oilers are the most as well. Minnesota has won five games straight in Edmonton, outscoring the Oilers 16-7 in that span (since 10/21/10).