Preview | Game Notes | Head-to-Head | Stats Comparison | Depth Chart | Injury Report | Set Your Fantasy Lineup
AT THE MORNING SKATE
After landing in Minnesota at around midnight Monday night, the Oilers got a decent rest before concluding their back-to-back and four-game road trip vs. the Wild tonight.
Eight skaters and goalie Devan Dubnyk took part in the club's optional morning skate at Xcel Energy Center, including Andrew Cogliano, Sam Gagner, Theo Peckham, Zack Stortini, Chris Minard, Ryan Potulny, Taylor Chorney and Fernando Pisani.
After the skate, Pisani confirmed that his groin injury has improved and he is ready to play vs. Minnesota.
"I pulled it before the Montreal game and it got a little bit sore so I decided to just take a couple days and let it rest a bit," the veteran forward explained.
The injury is the latest in a string of setbacks for Pisani, who has missed 42 games this season.
"It's obviously very frustrating," he said. "It's one of those things that you really can't do anything about except when you get there, just play, and that's how I'm going to approach these last 13 games."
With Pisani drawing back in, Oilers coaching staff are expected to scratch Mike Comrie. Head Coach Pat Quinn confirmed that Chris Minard, who was called up when Patrick O'Sullivan injured his hand, will play.
"[Pisani] probably could have played last night but we decided to take an extra day and play the young fellow (Minard) that we wanted to look at. We'll still look at him tonight -- he'll get one more game for sure," Quinn said.
DESLAURIERS TO START
Although the Oilers forward lines are in flux, the club's "win and you're in" goaltending plan continues. After backstopping a losing effort in Columbus Monday night, Devan Dubnyk will watch tonight's game from the sidelines as Jeff Deslauriers gets the start.
Quinn praised Dubnyk's performance vs. the Blue Jackets but added that he's still looking for consistency from his goaltenders.
"It's interesting because our guys have shown that they'll make big saves for us from time to time," the coach said. "He made some really good saves for us, a couple of lateral plays in the first period when we were really loosy-goosy, and then a couple of ones that you'd like to see him save.
"It's been a pattern with our guys -- they're good, and then a couple of stinkers. So we've got to get over that hump too."
The Oilers have lost 12 consecutive games at the Xcel Energy Center, and although the entire club would like to see that streak end tonight, perhaps nobody wants it more than Minnesota-born players Taylor Chorney, Ryan Potulny and Tom Gilbert.
"You'd like to win in front of your family and friends," Gilbert said. "They show up a lot and there's yet to be a win since I've been here in Minnesota. It's just one of those match-ups. We've had plenty of great games where we've had plenty of opportunities to win the game and they always seem to find a way to come back and either beat us by one goal or beat us in overtime."
Potulny is looking forward to playing in front of family and friends.
"It's always fun to come back here, a lot of memories from college days, but it's nice to see friends and family also," he said. "After the games, I'll have a bunch of people that come every time, so after the game I'll get to visit with them shortly before we leave."
OILERS (21-41-7) at WILD (33-29-6)
Last 10: Edmonton 3-6-1; Minnesota 4-4-2
Season series: Fifth of six meetings this season between these Northwest Division rivals. They've split the first four matchups, all won by the home team. Most recently, Edmonton claimed a 2-1 win on March 5 when Mike Comrie scored in the sixth round of the shootout. Comrie and Guillaume Latendresse scored the regulation goals in that game and lead their respective teams in the series with three apiece.
Big story: Minnesota starts Tuesday in 11th place in the Western Conference, eight points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. The Wild are still smarting from the point they let slip away the last time they played the Oilers and will look to extend Edmonton's woes away from home (1-14-1 since mid-December).
Oilers: This is the finale of a four-game trip for Edmonton, which won five straight on the road to start the month of December and went until a 3-2 shootout win in Los Angeles on Feb. 11 before tasting victory again while away from Rexall Place. The Oilers made the Blue Jackets sweat it out Monday, cutting a pair of two-goal, third-period deficits in half, but ultimately fell by a 5-3 final.
"Obviously, we like to play a little wide open with pinching in the offensive zone," said defenseman Aaron Johnson, one of the Edmonton goal scorers. "But there were a couple of times we just got caught out of position."
Wild: An 0-2-2 run earlier this month threatened to drop Minnesota permanently out of playoff contention, but the Wild have bounced back with a huge 3-2 win at Buffalo and a 4-2 victory over St. Louis on Sunday at the Xcel Energy Center. This is the finale of a brief two-game homestand before they hit the road for back-to-back games in Nashville on Thursday and Columbus on Friday.
"It was good overall," captain Mikko Koivu told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "Now we just have to carry that with us."
Who's hot: Dustin Penner has two goals and three assists during a three-game points streak for the Oilers. Andrew Cogliano has two goals and two assists during a three-game points streak. Johnson has goals in consecutive games after scoring just once in his first 26 contests.
With Niklas Backstrom ailing, Wild backup Josh Harding has won consecutive starts, stopping 79 of 83 shots for a .952 save percentage. Latendresse has goals in two straight games and five in his last six. Andrew Brunette also has goals in consecutive games. Antti Miettinen has a goal, two assists and a plus-3 rating in his last two games.
Injury report: Forwards Patrick O'Sullivan (hand) and Fernando Pisani (groin) were missing from the Edmonton lineup on Monday. Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (back), defensemen Sheldon Souray (hand) and Ladislav Smid (neck) and forwards Ales Hemsky (shoulder), Ryan Stone (knee), Jean-Francois Jacques (back) and Ryan Jones (torn MCL) are all on injured reserve and likely out for the season.
Minnesota is also struggling with injuries coming down the stretch. Backstrom (groin) and defensemen Brent Burns (hip) and Shane Hnidy (leg) are not expected to play on Tuesday. Forwards Owen Nolan (lower body) and Derek Boogaard (facial lacerations) are questionable. Defenseman Clayton Stoner (sports hernia) and forward Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion) are on injured reserve.
Stat pack: Four different goaltenders have won a game in the season series: Khabibulin and Jeff Deslauriers for the Oilers; Backstrom and Anton Khudobin for the Wild. Khudobin stopped all nine shots he faced after Harding was injured in a 4-2 Minnesota win on Feb. 4.
Puck drop: Koivu and the Wild feel they are still in good hands even if Harding must continue to sub for Backstrom.
"We know we have two solid goaltenders, and we know we can rely on them each and every night," Koivu said following Sunday's victory. "We're trying to make it a little bit easier on them. I think the defense did a very good job."
-- Brian Hunter, NHL.com