|Minnesota Wild (31-27-4) at Edmonton Oilers (19-38-6)
||TV: Molson Canadian Oilers PPV (HD)
RADIO: 630 CHED & Oilers Radio Network
PUCK DROP: 7:08 p.m. MST
|Edmonton Oilers goalie Jeff Deslauriers, right, stops the shot of Minnesota Wild center Eric Belanger during the first period of an NHL hockey game Thursday, Feb. 4, 2010, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid)
AT THE MORNING SKATE
The full Oilers squad took to the ice for morning skate Friday, including trade deadline acquirees Ryan Jones, Aaron Johnson, and Ryan Whitney.
For defenceman Whitney, it was his first appearance in the Oilers jersey and said it's an "exciting time" to be joining the Oil.
"Everyone wants to play in a hockey town -- it makes things pretty awesome. And I think guys enjoy playing where the fans really care, and obviously you want to be on a good team and win and that makes it even better," he said.
"That'll happen here I'm sure. Right now it's about finishing strong, meeting the guys, and becoming accustomed to being around here."
Jones, who was claimed off waivers Wednesday morning, views his time in Edmonton as an opportunity to cement an NHL role.
"It's a second chance for me to come to an organization that obviously wanted me to be here and show what I can do at this level," Jones said after the skate. "There's a lot of history obviously in the organization, there's a great group of guys in this room, and a good core, so we'll see what we can do here in the next 20."
Associate Coach Tom Renney expects to see a high compete level from Jones, Whitney, Johnson and the rest of the Oilers as the season winds down.
"Everybody that's here now is here to show us that they can play, that they want to, and that there's still potential in them as players, regardless of their status," he stated.
From blueliners Johnson and Whitney, Renney added that he wants to see "instinctive play" tonight vs. Minnesota.
"You can look at them within the body of an X and O, and all those types of things, and judge their game by how they participate within our team concept, but I think what you look at more than anything else is just their instincts -- that they have the wherewithal, the hockey sense, the ability to just kind of make things happen simultaneously on both sides of the puck."
BETWEEN THE PIPES & ON THE SIDELINES
Head Coach Pat Quinn covered a lot of topics in his season-record 19-minute pre-game press conference ( listen here), including his thoughts on goaltending assignments.
"We're hoping one of them (Jeff Deslauriers or Devan Dubnyk) steps forward and says 'I'm going to be your guy," Quinn said. "That hasn't happened yet, so I think tonight, or at least for the next little bit, the guy that wins will go in. If there's no win, we'll give it to the other guy."
Quinn also gave an update on the club's many injuries:
Ethan Moreau: "The medical staff today said no practice, no game, so we're going to try to get to the bottom of it."
Ladislav Smid: "Smid requires neck surgery and will be out for the season. So they're going to go in and do that vertebrae, at least the disk part, and do some removal."
Sheldon Souray: "Souray is still in (the hospital) with an infection. He is out indefinitely. It's serious enough to keep him in the hospital."
Nikolai Khabibulin: "Khaby is out indefinitely, continues rehab, and they are happy with the progress."
Jean-Francois Jacques: "Jacques had successful (back) surgery yesterday . . . and he clearly is out for the season.
Ryan Stone: "Stone continues his rehab, has started skating, but he continues to have a problem with that knee and I don't know what they're going to do with it eventually down the way."
WILD (31-27-4) at OILERS (19-38-6)
Last 10: Minnesota 6-4-0; Edmonton 3-7-0
Season series: Fourth and final meeting of the regular season. The home team has held serve thus far, with Martin Havlat scoring a pair of goals in the most recent matchup, a 4-2 win for the Wild at Xcel Energy Center on Feb. 4.
Big story: Edmonton gave up its postseason hopes long ago, but time hasn't run out on Minnesota just yet. The Wild emerged from the Olympic break by blanking the Flames 4-0 in Calgary and will attempt to sweep their brief Alberta road trip Friday night. They sit 13th in the Western Conference, but just four points out of eighth.
Wild: Niklas Backstrom mostly sat and watched during his time in Vancouver as a member of the Finland team that earned bronze. He did shut out Germany in his only start of the tournament, and on Wednesday he got the last laugh in a showdown with countryman Miikka Kiprusoff of the Flames, the go-to guy for the Finns at the Olympics. Mikko Koivu and Andrew Brunette each had a goal and an assist in support of Backstrom, who finished with 29 saves.
"You never know what to expect when you come out from a break," Backstrom said. "We got off to a good start and played a really solid team game tonight."
Oilers: The final 20 games of the season for Edmonton, starting with Wednesday's 5-2 loss to Chicago, are primarily about building for the future. The Oilers made some moves prior to the trade deadline, which included claiming forward Ryan Jones off waivers from Nashville and acquiring fellow blueliner Aaron Johnson from Calgary. Jones made his debut with the team against the Blackhawks and Johnson should join him in the lineup Friday.
"I think this is a good opportunity for me," Johnson said. "I have about 19, 20 games to try to prove myself and earn myself a job on this team and go out and take advantage of it."
Who's hot: Brunette has scored in three straight games for the Wild, with five points during that span. Koivu has a goal and six assists during a four-game points streak. … Shawn Horcoff has a goal and four assists during a three-game points streak for the Oilers.
Injury report: Minnesota defenseman Clayton Stoner is on injured reserve following hernia surgery. Forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard has played in just one game this season due to recurring headaches following a concussion.
Edmonton defenseman Ladislav Smid is day-to-day with a bulging disc in his neck. Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (back), defenseman Sheldon Souray (hand) and forwards Ales Hemsky (shoulder), Ryan Stone (knee) and Jean-Francois Jacques (back) are all on injured reserve.
Stat pack: Backstrom has been money against the Oilers during his career, posting a 14-1-0 record with a 1.64 goals-against average in 17 career starts. … Tom Gilbert, who has become the stalwart on Edmonton's blue line following several recent trades, had 26:32 of ice time in Wednesday's loss to Chicago.
Puck drop: The Wild have a handful of teams they must climb over in order to make the playoffs. These are two points they can ill afford to pass up.
-- Brian Hunter, NHL.com