Oilers return home to face Wild
The top two teams in the Northwest Division meet tonight as the Edmonton Oilers face off against the Minnesota Wild for the first of eight times this season. Both teams are lodged atop the division with identical 16-12-2 records through 30 games.
The Oilers roller coaster season continues. After winning five straight in late November, they were winless in their next three. They followed that up with three wins in a row but have now lost their last two games with road losses in Chicago and Nashville.
Minnesota got off to its fastest start in franchise history with 10 wins in its first 12 games but then ran into some injury trouble and put together a 3-9-2 record in its next 14 games. However, prior to Tuesdays loss in Calgary the Wild had won three straight – all in a shootout or overtime.
OILERS TO WATCH: A player who will always be under the microscope when these two teams meet is former Wild goaltender Dwayne Roloson. With a 2.40 goals-against average and .920 save percentage, Roloson has statistically outperformed former teammate and current Wild starting goaltender Manny Fernandez to this point in the season. Fernandez has a 2.81 GAA and .907 save percentage Jarret Stoll continued his hot hand on Tuesday with an assist, extending his point streak to five games. Over that span, Stoll has a goal and five assists Another former Wild, Daniel Tjarnqvist meets his old team tonight. Tjarnqvist has two goals and 10 assists for 12 points this season.
WILD TO WATCH: Pavol Demitra returned from injury in a big way Saturday against Chicago with a three-point performance. Through 22 games, the off-season acquisition has six goals and 18 points Once again, Brian Rolston is showing how great of a fit Minnesota is for him. After scoring a career-high 34 goals last season, he is on pace for more than 40 this year with 15 goals through his first 30 games Pierre-Marc Bouchard is the teams top playmaker with 16 assists through 30 games With 20 points, Mikko Koivu is one point away from matching his total set in his rookie season last year.
MIKHNOV IN, WINCHESTER OUT: Forward Alexei Mikhnov will return to the Oilers lineup tonight, playing alongside Patrick Thoresen and Marty Reasoner. Brad Winchester will likely be the odd-man out.
OILERS MAKE MOVES: The Oilers sent defenceman Jan Hejda to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League yesterday afternoon. They also recalled blueliner Mathieu Roy from Hamilton though he's not likely to suit up this evening.
ROSTER UPDATES: Edmonton – Ethan Moreau (shoulder) is out. Ales Hemsky (shoulder) is out. Ryan Smyth (thumb) is out; Minnesota – Kurtis Foster (throat) is questionable. Wes Walz (leg) is questionable. Marian Gaborik (groin) is out.
FAST FACTS: Minnesota defenceman Petteri Nummelin has two goals this season and six in his entire 91-game NHL career but he has been the leagues best marksman in the shootout so far this year. In four attempts, he has scored all four times and is a big reason why the Wild have a league-high 7-2 shootout record. Fernandez is 6-0 this season in shootouts and 10-2 in his career 18 of the Wilds 30 gamese have been decided by one goal. Minnesota is 11-5-2 in these games With 40 shots last game, the Oilers ended a stretch of eight straight games recording fewer than 25 shots.