Preview: Oilers at Wild
EDMONTON OILERS (35-27-9) at
MINNESOTA WILD (33-30-8)
Start Time: 1:08 p.m. MDT
Television: Rogers Sportsnet West
Radio: 630 CHED, Oilers Radio Network and online at edmontonoilers.com.
Today's Game Notes | Oilers/Wild Head-to-Head | Stats Comparison
|SAINT PAUL, MN - FEBRUARY 8: Dwayne Roloson #35 of the Edmonton Oilers successfully defends his goal despite the efforts of Derek Boogaard #24 of the Minnesota Wild during the game at the Xcel Energy Center on February 8, 2009 in Saint Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)
by Marc Ciampa | edmontonoilers.com
|THE ESSENTIALS FOR SUNDAY
The Edmonton Oilers look to continue their recent successful stretch as they wrap up a three-game road trip on Sunday afternoon against the Minnesota Wild.
Seventh-place Edmonton is now five points ahead of Minnesota and three points behind sixth-place Columbus. A win on Sunday over the Wild would give the Oilers a seven-point cushion on Minnesota with only 10 games left to play for both teams.
Overall, the Oilers have picked up victories in each of their last three games, picked up points in their last seven and have only one loss in regulation over their last 10 (5-1-4). Their most recent game was a 5-4 shootout win over Chicago on Friday night.
Minnesota has struggled recently with only one win in their last six (1-2-3). They also have only three wins in their last 13 (3-6-4). Most recently, they lost 4-0 to the New Jersey Devils on Friday night.
This is the fifth of six meetings this season between Edmonton and Minnesota. Each team has won twice so far.
Just The Facts...
OILERS TO WATCH: Sam Gagner
is playing the best hockey of his career at just the right time. With 15 points in his last nine games, he has emerged as Edmonton's offensive leader of late... Since returning from being a healthy scratch for four games, Robert Nilsson is also playing some solid hockey. Nilsson has two goals and four assists for six points in six games with a +7 rating... Denis Grebeshkov leads the Oilers in scoring against Minnesota this season with four points in four games - all assists. Ales Hemsky
is second with two goals and three points in three games while Liam Reddox
- who won't play tomorrow - has a goal and three points in four outings.
WILD TO WATCH:
Marian Gaborik is expected to make his return to the lineup Sunday for the Minnesota Wild. Gaborik has been out since late October and has only played six games this season. He has three goals and five points in those games... Goaltender Niklas Backstrom has had the Oilers number throughout this career. In nine career starts at the Xcel Energy Center versus Edmonton, Backstrom has a record of 9-0-0 with a 1.21 goals-against average and three shutouts... Pierre-Marc Bouchard leads the Wild in scoring this season against the Oilers with five points in four games.
Edmonton—Denis Grebeshkov is questionable; Liam Reddox
(concussion) is out; Lubomir Visnovsky (torn labrum) is out. Minnesota—Marian Gaborik (lower body) is probable. Brent Burns (concussion) is doubtful.
The Minnesota Wild are in the midst of a very odd portion of their schedule. On Friday night they played in New Jersey before returning to Minnesota for Sunday's game. They will return to the New York area next week for games against the Rangers and Islanders on Tuesday and Wednesday before heading to Alberta for games against Calgary and Edmonton next weekend... Gagner had six goals and 14 points in 15 games in March last season. Coupled with his 15 points in nine games this year, he has 29 points in 24 games through March in his career.
Playoff Race Update: Oilers tied for 7th
- The race for the final playoff spots in the Western Conference is heating up. To follow along with Edmonton's chances to get into the post-season, follow the link as we examine each team currently in the race. ...more
The Other Side
- Down the Stretch They Come... - As the Wild winds its way through the regular season (the Wild's regular season finale is set for April 11), Wild.com will keep you posted on the playoff picture with a breakdown of the previous night's action and an easy-to-follow chart ...more
- Linked In... - This week's edition of our Links feature (posted Friday mornings at 9 a.m. CDT) opens with a closer look at the Wild's month of March, looks ahead to the final dozen games, then covers the Northwest Division, the League and Houston Aeros ...more
- Wild Child - In an effort to promote education through reading, Wild players, James Sheppard and Colton Gillies, read books to students of the winning schools, Johnsville Elementary and Redwood Valley Middle School, from the Wild About Reading contest ...more
Odds and Ends
- Western Conference Playoff Race Update - The Oilers are now one point behind sixth-place Columbus after Friday's shootout win over Chicago. They're also four points ahead of ninth-place St. Louis with a game in hand on the Blues. Click for more. ...more
- Calgary Invasion on The Link - In this edition of The Link, we take a trip down to Calgary with Louie the Lion for Game 1 of the WHL Quarterfinals between the Oil Kings and Hitmen, talk strategy with Steve Serdachny and spend some time with Patrick O'Sullivan. ...more
From the Wire (AP)
The Edmonton Oilers haven't won a road game against the Minnesota Wild in over two years, and Niklas Backstrom has been a big reason why.
The Oilers will try to snap that slide by matching their season-high winning streak Saturday when they visit the sputtering Wild, who hope Backstrom can bounce back from an ugly effort and continue his success versus Edmonton.
The Oilers (35-27-9) are 0-7-2 in their last nine games at Minnesota (33-30-8), getting outscored 33-11 since posting a 2-1 win there on Jan. 16, 2007. They took the last meeting 3-2 at Edmonton on Feb. 28.
It's Backstrom who has dominated Edmonton in 14 career starts, going 11-1-0 with a 1.80 GAA and three shutouts. Those shutouts have come at home, where he's won all nine meetings with a 1.21 GAA. The goaltender expects to be back in net after allowing three goals on 11 shots before getting pulled in the second period on Friday in a 4-0 loss at New Jersey.
Edmonton hopes its current form will help it end its losing streak in the Twin Cities. The team is on a three-game winning streak for the first time since opening the season with four consecutive wins.
The Oilers maintained that run Friday, beating Chicago 5-4 in a shootout a night after an 8-1 victory at Colorado. Those wins are also part of their impressive 4-0-3 stretch, which has moved them into seventh in the Western Conference playoff race, two points ahead of eighth-place Nashville.
"It was tough," Oilers left wing Patrick O'Sullivan said of the back-to-back stretch. "Every team has to go through it, but points are critical right now. Seventy games in, you're going to be a little bit tired."
Dwayne Roloson, a member of the Wild from 2001-06, doesn't appear to be showing any signs of fatigue. The goaltender has started a team-record 27 consecutive games, going 13-8-6 with a 2.77 goals-against average in that stretch.
However, he's been even better of late, compiling a 1.90 GAA in winning the last three games. Roloson made 39 saves against the Blackhawks with one coming on a third-period penalty shot by Jonathan Toews.
"He's an absolute warrior," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said.
Roloson, though, is 0-5-2 with a 3.62 GAA in his last seven games at Minnesota.
The Wild are three points back of the Predators for the final playoff position in the conference after a 3-6-4 stretch. That poor run has been aided by a power-play unit that has gone 5-for-44, while failing to convert on its last 12 chances over three games.
Minnesota went 0-for-7 on the man advantage in Friday's loss, falling for the fifth time in six games (1-2-3).
"We couldn't come up nothing," Wild coach Jacques Lemaire said. "We had power plays and a lot of time on it. We didn't build on it. We got nothing."
The Wild could use some offensive help from Mikko Koivu, their leader with 62 points. The center has been held without a point for three games after netting a goal with three assists in the previous three.
Koivu has been a big part of Minnesota's home success against the Oilers, getting a goal and 10 assists in the last seven matchups there.
After hosting Edmonton, Minnesota starts a four-game trip at the New York Rangers on Tuesday before playing four of its remaining six regular-season games at home.