Oilers wrap road trip at noon
After six games and 14 days, the marathon road trip ends today.
It's been a roller coaster of sorts for the Edmonton Oilers, dropping each of the first four games of the road trip. It opened with a 3-0 loss to Boston, a 2-1 overtime defeat against Buffalo, a 4-3 setback against the Maple Leafs and a 4-3 shootout loss versus Toronto.
With their collective backs against the wall, the Oilers battled hard last Thursday night in a must-win situation and defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-0. The following night, they took out the Detroit Red Wings 4-3 in a shootout - ending the Red Wings' 13-game home winning streak.
"We were down two and we battled really hard (to tie it up)," said Ryan Smyth, who scored his 31st of the season and also in the shootout versus Detroit. "Everybody knows we're in a dogfight to get the eighth and final spot."
And now here they are, game seven. With a record of 2-2-2 through the first six games they have a chance to finish the road trip above .500 and cut the gap between themselves and the final playoff spot to five points.
Minnesota has proven to be a difficult opponent to catch for Edmonton, particularly given their strong play of late. The Wild are 7-2-1 in their last 10.
Their last game was on Thursday night when they defeated the Colorado Avalanche 4-3. After skating out to a 3-0 lead, they let the Avs get back in the game but held on for the one-goal win.
"We kind of hung on for dear life," said Wild forward Mark Parrish.
The win increased the gap between Minnesota and tenth-place Colorado to 11 points - effectively ending Colorado's playoff hopes. The Wild would like to do similar damage to the Oilers today but with four games left between these two teams after this game they aren't counting anyone out.
"I keep saying let's go one game at a time and don't worry about much more after that," Mikko Koivu stated. "There are still a lot of points on the table; let's play all the games and see where we're at."
ROSTER UPDATES: Edmonton - Zack Stortini was recalled from Hamilton (AHL) yesterday while Jean-Francois Jacques was sent down to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton (AHL)... Ethan Moreau (shoulder) is out. Jarret Stoll (concussion) is out. Joffrey Lupul (concussion) is out. Tom Gilbert (concussion) is out. Petr Nedved (knee) is out. Minnesota - Manny Fernandez (knee) is doubtful.
OILERS TO WATCH: Dwayne Roloson is coming off a pair of big wins against Columbus and Detroit and today he's facing his old team. In three prior meetings this season, Roloson has a 2-1-0 record with a 1.70 goals-against average and .938 save percentage... Three Oilers have scoring streaks heading into this afternoon's game. Raffi Torres has picked up a point in each of his last three games (1g, 2a), Ryan Smyth has four points in his last two outings and Shawn Horcoff has six points (2g, 4a) in his last three games.
WILD TO WATCH: Brian Rolston has been dangerous against the Oilers throughout his career. In 25 career games against Edmonton, he leads all Wild skaters with 14 goals and 23 points. When Rolston scores more than one point in a game, the Wild are unbeaten this season at 13-0-0... Pavol Demitra leads all Wild players in multi-point games with 14... Goaltender Niklas Backstrom has been pressed into front-line duty with starting netminder Manny Fernandez on the shelf and he has answered the bell in a big way. Minnesota is 7-2-1 in February since Backstrom took over the helm. He has a 12-7-4 record overall with a 2.28 GAA and .923 save percentage.
FAST FACTS: Minnesota is tied for first in the NHL this season with 15 overtime wins (15-1-4). In shootouts, the Wild are 10-4 while in OT they're 5-1. No team has had more shootout appearances than Minnesota (14)... The Wild are 20-10-5 in one-goal games with 35 of their 62 games being decided by a single goal.