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AT THE MORNING SKATE
After bussing in from wintry Minneapolis to its equally snowy twin city, St. Paul, the Oilers took to the ice for morning skate at Xcel Energy Center.
Head coach Tom Renney did not run lines in the 30 minutes of on-ice activity, but he is expected to maintain the combinations that have produced three consecutive wins.
With a combined 13 points in the past three games, Edmonton's top line of Dustin Penner, Shawn Horcoff, and Ales Hemsky has been the club's top producer.
"We know each other pretty well," Hemsky said. "We've played together before a lot of times so we just feel pretty strong about the game right now."
Hemsky has also found success on the man-advantage with Taylor Hall. The right winger set up the rookie for two of his three power-play goals Saturday afternoon vs. Atlanta, and Renney said he will "look into" keeping the twosome together tonight.
"I've got two distinct units as it is right now, but certainly there's an opportunity there to kind of play with that a little bit, cut and paste if you will, and put some different combinations of people together and I'm all for that," the coach said.
In addition to contributions from his line-mates, Hall said confidence has played a big role in his recent success. After registering his first career hat trick, he is determined not to be derailed by the ego boost.
"It is nice to have confidence. When you're in the NHL and you're a young player, when you get confidence you're a different player. I have to use that but also at the same time not forget what has made me play well during parts of season and just try to keep it going," Hall explained.
TAMING THE WILD
"Keeping it going" is the motive of all Oilers as they hope to stretch their winning streak to four games with a victory tonight.
"If you look at the three wins, there's been something in each game that's really put us over the top," Hall said. "Last game it was our power-play, the game before our goaltending was awesome. Those are certain things that good teams have every night. They bring certain things to the table and they usually use that to win."
Renney added focus and accountability to the list of attributes the Oilers need to maintain.
"For the most part we've played within a game plan, obviously, that gives us a chance to win," he said. "And I think that we've made ourselves a bit more accountable in terms of what we have to achieve individually and then as a group whenever we're on the ice.
"And I think we've got to use the depth of our line-up now," Renney continued. "We've got four lines that can play in different circumstances, do different things, and we have to make sure we play to the strengths of our line-up."
STREAK VS STREAK
Judging by the Oilers record at Xcel Energy Center, the hockey gods won't be smiling on the visitors tonight. Edmonton has lost its last 14 games in Minnesota, a stat that is apparently more important to media than players or coaches.
"You guys asked us that question every time we come here," Hemsky said when the topic was broached during an interview. "If I had an answer, we would maybe win, but we don't. We just have to focus on our game and just play the same way like we've played, don't worry about them, how they will play. Just focus on our system and play our game."
Renney echoed Hemsky's statement.
"I hadn't thought about it again today until it was brought up and maybe it'll get brought up again, and that's fine. We have to pay attention. I respect our opponent enough to recognize we have to play hard, and I think that's the big thing here, is that we do that and we let the game take care of itself by us taking care of our game."
-- Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com
Last 10: Edmonton 4-6-0; Minnesota 6-3-1
Season series: Fourth of six meetings this season between these Northwest Division rivals. The Wild have taken the first three matchups from the Oilers, scoring four goals in each victory. Mikko Koivu had a two-goal game for Minnesota on Oct. 14 and Kyle Brodziak did the same on Oct. 21.
Big story: Edmonton is enjoying its best stretch of hockey since winning four straight and five of six in late November and early December. The Oilers will try to tie their season high with a fourth consecutive victory Tuesday. Meanwhile, the Wild conclude a three-game homestand on which they have gained three of a possible four points so far.
Oilers: For all the lumps Edmonton has taken this season with a young squad, those up-and-coming players have delivered their fair share of brilliant moments. Perhaps the biggest may have come Saturday afternoon, when Taylor Hall, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 Entry Draft, came up with a natural hat trick in the third period, rallying the Oilers to a 5-3 win over the visiting Thrashers.
"It's a great feeling anytime a player can get a hat trick and contribute to your team," Hall said. "But if we don't get those power plays and play strong as a group in the third, I don't get those goals.
"It was a really fun night on all parts. Everyone chanting your name and all of the hats raining down, it's something I will never forget."
Wild: In a thriller that served as part of "Hockey Day In America," Minnesota and Detroit played 65 minutes and still couldn't decide Sunday's game, so they went to a shootout where Pavel Datsyuk and Todd Bertuzzi scored to deal the Wild a tough 2-1 defeat. Nicklas Lidstrom and Martin Havlat traded goals under four minutes apart in the third period and Niklas Backstrom made sure the home team didn't come away empty-handed with a 38-save effort.
"He played great. It guess it's something that you come to expect, making certain saves look easy and making some saves that you're not expecting him to make," coach Todd Richards said.
Who's hot: Ales Hemsky has 4 goals and 3 assists during a three-game points streak for the Oilers. Shawn Horcoff has 1 goal and 4 assists during a three-game points streak. … Havlat has goals in consecutive games for the Wild. Backstrom is 10-5-1 in his last 16 games, allowing two goals or fewer 12 times during that stretch.
Injury report: Edmonton forward Gilbert Brule and defenseman Ryan Whitney are out with ankle injuries. Whitney will miss the remainder of the season. … Minnesota lost Koivu to a left hand injury Friday against Anaheim and he's out indefinitely. Forward Guillaume Latendresse (hip/sports hernia) is on injured reserve.
Stat pack: Hall took nine of Edmonton's 26 shots on Saturday in just under 20 minutes of ice time. … Matt Cullen and Brent Burns have also struck for a pair of goals over the Wild's first three games against the Oilers.
Puck drop: Playing without your captain isn't something any team in the postseason hunt wants to do for an extended period of time, but Minnesota is determined to continue treading water until Koivu returns.
"When he's gone, we want to step up and help him and make sure we're still in the race or in the playoffs when he comes back," Backstrom said.
-- Brian Hunter - NHL.com