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AT THE MORNING SKATE
The Oilers started their first road game day of the season with a brief team meeting and then morning skate at Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul, MN. There are no major changes expected to the Oilers line-up in tonight's contest. Like in Sunday's game vs. Florida, Zack Stortini will fill the role of fourth-line enforcer, while Steve MacIntyre sits out. Nikolai Khabibulin will continue to start for the Oil in net.
The hot topic Thursday morning was the Oilers 13-game losing streak at Xcel Energy Center. Although the streak is considerable, Edmonton's players and management aren't giving it much heed.
"I think the first thing we need to do is not worry about that, don't worry about history at all, and start to create our own with the type of effort that gives us a chance to win," Head Coach Tom Renney said after the skate. "For us anyway it's about making sure that our shifts are short, that we push the pace, that we compete in every aspect of the game."
Sam Gagner said systems consistency will be important to break the curse.
"I think for us the biggest thing is making sure our system play is good all night. I think if we're in the right spots defensively, we're going to create chances offensively and we've just got to execute from there," he explained.
"Backstrom stole some games from us in here and we've got to make sure we're getting pucks and traffic to the net and executing on our chances. If we're able to do that, we'll hopefully come out with a win."
Kurtis Foster, who played four seasons with the Wild, is looking forward to his first game back as a visitor.
"This is my first time coming out of the opposing tunnel, but it's going to be a lot of fun," he said. "Tonight's their opening night and I think it will be a good night for the Oilers to turn the tide here in Minnesota and win some games."
ROOKIES ROAD DEBUT
The return to the road is always exciting, but for three young Oilers, this season-opening trip to Minnesota and Calgary is their first opportunity to experience NHL life away from Edmonton.
"It's definitely a good experience and you definitely know you're in the NHL when you're staying at the kind of hotels we're staying at," Taylor Hall explained. "It was kind of funny: me and Jordan we went out for dinner with a couple other guys last night. Our bill was $100 each, and we were talking that that could buy us about 12 footlong subs from subway, that's what we're used to, so it's a little bit different but we're having fun getting used to it."
Coach Renney said the rookies excitement is contagious.
"We all get a chance to live vicariously through those kids now, with respect to their first experience through a lot of NHL rinks," he said. "It's good for all of us to be able to, through those kids at least, connect to the passion of the game and the beauty of playing it and how fortunate we are to do so."
WITH THIS RING ...
The rings are big, heavy, and ornate, and although Fraser said he likely won't wear his very much, it was honour to finally receive it.
"You see the pictures but to see it up close, it's awesome," Fraser said. "I think it's going to get locked up there pretty quick. I'll show everybody, and then who knows after that."
"It is weird being on a different team now, but that's the way it goes sometimes, you can't control that, and we've got to win one now in Edmonton," he concluded.
-- Jen Sharpe, edmontonoilers.com
By Eric Goodman - NHL.com
OILERS (2-0-0) at WILD (0-1-1)
TV -- SNET-WEST (HD)
Season series -- This is the first of six meetings between these Northwest Division foes. Minnesota took three of six meetings last season, with all of those wins coming in regulation and one loss via the shootout.
Big story -- The Oilers seek their third straight win to open up the 2010-11 campaign, while the Wild return to Minnesota for their home opener with hopes of claiming their first victory of the season after getting swept by the Carolina Hurricanes in the Compuware NHL Premiere games in Helsinki, Finland, this past weekend.
Oilers -- Edmonton is an up-and-coming team that has not made the playoffs since losing in the Stanley Cup Final to the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006. But the Oilers certainly appear poised for a competitive 2010-11 season, as they boast both the No. 1 pick from the 2010 Entry Draft in Taylor Hall and the No. 22 pick from 2008 in Jordan Eberle. Eberle scored a highlight-reel goal against Calgary in the Oilers' home opener on Oct. 7, while Hall collected his first NHL point with an assist on captain Shawn Horcoff's goal against the visiting Panthers during the Oilers' second game of the season on Sunday.
"I know if you ask (Horcoff), he'll take those goals any day," Hall said of his assist on Sunday. "It's not a bad play when you shoot from the corner on net. You never know what could happen and that turned out to be the winning goal for us."
Wild -- The Wild are another club that hasn't had much the kind of success it would like recently, having missed the playoffs the past two seasons. But they should be happy to come home to the State of Hockey, where they put up an impressive 25-12-4 record in 2009-10. Despite leaving Finland without a win, Minnesota did manage a point after a hard-fought shootout loss to Carolina this past Friday.
"We had some great chances," coach Todd Richards said after Friday's game. "It was a game that you're disappointed with the result, but you look at every aspect and you're happy with the way the team competed."
Who's hot -- Horcoff had a goal in each of the Oilers' first two games this season, while newcomer Matt Cullen tallied a goal and an assist in the Wild's season-opener in Finland.
Injury report -- For the Oilers, forward Jean-Francois Jacques is on injured reserve following back surgery. … For the Wild, defenseman Marek Zidlicky sat out last Friday's game with a groin injury, while Pierre-Marc Bouchard (concussion) remains sidelined.
Stat pack -- The last time the Oilers opened up the season with a winning streak was in 2008-09 when they reeled off four victories in a row, but then finished up October with five straight losses.
Puck drop -- "We need to get away and get acclimated with the rest of the National Hockey League. There's 29 other teams and so it will be real good for us to get out on the road." -- Oilers coach Tom Renney on his club's upcoming two-game road trip.
-- Eric Goodman, NHL.com