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MINNESOTA WILD (35-32-8) at
EDMONTON OILERS (36-28-9)
Start Time: 6:08 p.m. MDT
Television: Rogers Sportsnet West (HD)
Radio: 630 CHED, Oilers Radio Network and online at edmontonoilers.com.Today's Game Notes | Oilers/Wild Head-to-Head | Stats Comparison Oilers Twitter Lineup Updates:
by Marc Ciampa | edmontonoilers.com
After wins last night by St. Louis and Nashville, the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference has gotten that much tighter.
Edmonton sits in a tie with St. Louis for eighth place at 81 points. At 82 points is Nashville and right behind the Oilers and Blues is the Anaheim Ducks at 80 points in 10th spot.
Sitting in 11th is Edmonton's opponent for tonight, the Minnesota Wild. With 78 points, the Wild are three points behind the Oilers for the eighth and final playoff spot. Tonight's game is about as close to must-win as it can get for the Wild as a loss would move them five points back with only five games left to play.
The Oilers ended a three-game losing streak on Friday night with a gutsy 5-3 win over the Ducks in Anaheim. Edmonton was outshot 54 to 20 in the contest but Dwayne Roloson made 51 saves to propel the visitors to victory.
Meanwhile, Minnesota is coming off a 3-2 loss last night in Calgary to the Flames. The Wild were outshot badly in that one, 40 to 15. The Wild have alternated wins and losses over their last seven games. Overall, Minnesota is 5-5-3 in their last 13.
This is the sixth and final meeting of the season between the Oilers and Wild. The home team has won each of the previous five encounters, including Minnesota's 3-0 win last Sunday against Edmonton.
Just The Facts...
Oilers/Wild Preview with Bob Stauffer & Gene Principe
Playoff Race Update: Oilers tied for 8th - Updated March 28 at 11:48 p.m. MDT. On Saturday, Minnesota lost to Calgary in regulation time but St. Louis and Nashville both won and moved up in the standings. As a result, the Oilers went from 7th to a tie for 8th place. ...more
The Other Side - news from wild.com
Wild looks ahead to Edmonton - The Wild, which without Mikko Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Colton Gillies dressed seven defensemen in a 3-2 loss to Calgary on Saturday, will face Edmonton Sunday in a matchup of two teams looking to rejoin the playoff picture ...more 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 Marian Gaborik's four-point night, turns ahead to the final eight games, then covers the Northwest, the League and Houston Aeros ...more
From the Fans
Click here to read today's gameday thread on the Oilers message board.
Odds and Ends
The LINK: Autographs & Patrick + Ales - In this Friday edition of The Link, we mic up Jason Strudwick and Robert Nilsson for the annual Oilers Autograph Session. We also get to know O'Sullivan and Kotalik a little better in Part 2 of that feature. ...more 5 Questions with Dustin Penner - Stitches, Sunbirds, and Subway sandwiches are among the topics Dustin Penner addressed in his most-recent Off The Ice interview. Follow the link for his answers and more Oilers player features. ...more
From the Wire (AP)
The Edmonton Oilers won't have to leave the province of Alberta the rest of the regular season.
With seven games remaining, the Oilers look to improve their postseason position Sunday night when they open a six-game homestand against the Minnesota Wild, who are also in the mix for a Western Conference playoff spot.
Edmonton (36-30-9) avoided a fourth straight loss with a 5-3 win at Anaheim on Friday to conclude a brief two-game road swing.
Tied with St. Louis for the eighth and final playoff spot in the wild West, the Oilers open their second six-game homestand before concluding the regular season at provincial rival Calgary on April 11.
That final stretch could prove beneficial for Edmonton, which is 16-13-6 at home, but 1-1-2 there since a 3-2 win over Minnesota on Feb. 28 - its most recent win at Rexall Place in regulation.
"Every game is like a playoff game for us now," Oilers goaltender Dwayne Roloson said. "You just try to focus on every game from here on. It doesn't matter who we play."
Though the Wild (35-32-8) have won three of the five contests between the teams this season, the Oilers have been victorious in both games at Rexall Place and won four in a row overall at home in the series.
Minnesota is currently 11th in the West and three points behind Edmonton with seven games remaining.
"In hockey, you never give up," Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom said. "You go out there and you battle until the buzzer or until someone says the season is over. Until then you fight."
The Oilers, though, scored on their first two shots and added two goals 9 seconds apart to take the lead in the second period.
Roloson made 51 saves in his team-record 31st straight start to improve to 27-20-9 with a 2.76 goals-against average.
"It was just unbelievable goaltending," Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said of Roloson, who is 2-2-1 with a 2.56 GAA this season against Minnesota, the team that traded him to the Oilers during the 2005-06 season.
Hemsky has a goal with four assists in his last three games and two goals with an assist against Minnesota this season. Kotalik, meanwhile, looks to extend his goal-scoring streak to four games.
Andrew Brunette has a goal and an assist against Edmonton this season and scored for the second straight game in Minnesota's 3-2 loss at Calgary on Saturday.
James Sheppard added his fifth goal for the Wild, who have alternated wins and losses in their last six contests.
"We're supposed to be fighting for our lives here to get into the playoffs and it's just not a good effort," said Wild forward Owen Nolan, who was held without a point Saturday, but has two goals and an assist versus the Oilers this season.
Backstrom made 37 saves, but fell to 33-23-7 with a 2.37 GAA. The All-Star likely will be back in net trying to improve on his 12-1-0 career record and 1.67 GAA against the Oilers.
His only blemish came in a 3-1 defeat at Edmonton on Jan. 30.