Oilers hit the road to face Wild
Wednesday, 12.23.2009 / 6:00 PM
OILERS (15-17-4) at WILD (17-16-3)
-- Edmonton 5-5-0, Minnesota 6-4-0.
-- Only the second meeting this year between the division rivals. Their last meeting was on Oct. 16, back when the Wild were struggling badly to start the season, losing 5-2. Dustin Penner and Gilbert Brule
each scored twice, dropping the Wild to a 1-5-0 record at the time.
-- Both teams are at the bottom of the Northwest Division, three points apart, though both have shown they can get hot for a prolonged period of time. A recent 0-4 performance on a four-game homestand has dropped the Oilers to the bottom of the Western Conference.
-- There's not much positive to be taken from Edmonton's recent homestand, especially when the last game was as one-sided as the 7-2 clobbering the Oilers suffered at the hands of the Blues, except that you eventually have to go back on the road. In the Oilers' case, that might not be such a bad thing, and at Tuesday's practice in Edmonton coach Pat Quinn returned to some of the things that made them so successful on the team's most recent trip.
That meant restoring some of the line combinations they had used, like reuniting Ryan Stone, Robert Nilsson and Zack Stortini on the fourth line, and putting Jean-Francois Jacques, Patrick O'Sullivan and Shawn Horcoff
back together as well.
One slight difference was that Ryan Potulny was on the top line centering Gilbert Brule
and Dustin Penner.
"The initial thought was to go right back to how we played the five games that we did pretty well again. I really only adjusted one guy and that was Potulny instead of Gagner (on the top line)," he told the Oilers' official Web site.
"The reason is that Potulny's been very good. He's been very conscientious defensively and a consistent scorer on what you might call a third line -- not a scoring line so to speak."
-- A small hiccup in Ottawa has started to grow into something a little more dangerous. Facing the Avalanche, a team whose number they've had for a while now, Minnesota fell behind with a three-goal second period and had regrouped to come back within one, outshooting the Avs 13-4 in the third. All winning streaks come to an end, though, and the Wild's five-game run was stopped with a 4-3 Colorado victory for Minnesota's second straight loss overall, the first time they've strung two losses together since a four-game skid Nov. 12-18.
"They had something to prove against us, and playing in our building it was the perfect stage for them to do that," Wild coach Todd Richards said, adding: "We started to unravel a little bit and the emotions got a little high and we were focused on other things, a bit distracted."
-- One thing the Oilers have done well this season is break long losing streaks against teams they've had trouble with on the road, including Nashville, Detroit and Dallas. Martin Havlat extended his point streak to six games with a goal against Colorado.
-- Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin
, the winner in their last meeting with the Wild, remains sidelined with back spasms as does Ales Hemsky
(shoulder). Mike Comrie (mononucleosis) and Fernando Pisani (colitis) still don't know when they will be returning to the lineup. ... Havlat missed practice on Tuesday with the flu and is questionable for the Wild.
-- The Wild's 10-game home winning streak against the Oilers is the second longest against one team in the NHL; the Predators' 13-game run against the Blue Jackets being the longest. The Wild have outscored the Oilers 36-11 in that span, and four of Backstrom's 18 career shutouts have come during the run. A once-vaunted power play in Minnesota is dealing with near-record futility, scoring only once in their last 30 chances. It had allowed seven goals in a 4-1-0 stretch before matching that number in these two most recent losses. The Oilers haven't lost five in a row since going 0-4-1 from Oct. 22-30, 2008.
-- "We’re not an assertive team in one-on-one situations. We want to chase pucks a lot of times. That’s what little kids do. They follow the puck with their eyes and with their bodies.” -- Edmonton coach Pat Quinn