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New-look Oilers set to host Wild

by Kevin Woodley

WILD (23-16-3) at OILERS (16-18-7)


Last 10: Minnesota 3-6-1, Edmonton 5-5-0

Season series: This is the third of four meetings. Minnesota won the first two, starting with a 3-1 victory in Edmonton Feb. 21 and a 4-2 home win March 3.

Big story: The Wild snapped a dangerous slide with a crucial 4-3 win against the Calgary Flames, but things could be a lot tougher against an Oilers’ team that just fired general manager Steve Tambellini and replaced him with Craig MacTavish. The former Edmonton player and coach wasted little time talking about bold moves to “add competitiveness” to a team he said lacks “a true understanding of just how difficult it is to have success at this level.”

Team Scope:

Wild: Struggling to score and fading in the Western Conference playoff race, Minnesota got some much-needed offense from captain Mikko Koivu and trade deadline addition Jason Pominville to beat the Flames 4-3 on Monday and stay two points ahead of the ninth-place Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Wild had been shut out twice in the previous three games, and scored just eight goals while winning one of their past seven contests before Koivu snapped a nine-game goal and seven-game point drought early. Pominville added two goals, giving him four and six points since being acquired in a trade from the Buffalo Sabres. It also helped to have veteran Matt Cullen back after six games, as he had an assist and was plus-2 while buoying their depth at center.

They’ll need to do it again less than 24 hours later against the Oilers.

"I think we'd be lying to say we don't look at the standings basically every day, try to figure out what's going on throughout the League and teams that are playing and not playing, but I think right now we control our destiny," Pominville said. "We've just got to go out there and execute, and tonight was a start."

Oilers: Booed off the ice by the home crowd after a loss to the Flames and all but done in the playoff race after losing five straight to fall out of eighth place, the Oilers should be ornery after Tambellini was fired and replaced by MacTavish.

With MacTavish promising swift change and bold moves, this young, gifted Oilers’ team should have something to prove to the man who will decide who among them gets to stay on and be part of what still looks like a promising future.

"I'm an impatient guy and I bring that impatience to this situation," MacTavish said. "I think that we're at the stage in terms of the cycle with our hockey club right now that we have to do some bold things. We have to expose ourselves to some semblance of risk to try and move the club forward in a rapid fashion."

Who’s hot: Pominville has four goals and two assists in his past five games for Minnesota. Despite reportedly playing through injury, top Wild defenseman Ryan Suter had an assist and was plus-3 against the Flames on Monday. Suter, who is being mentioned as a Norris Trophy candidate, trails only P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens with 31 points this season. He has more than double the point total of Minnesota’s next defenseman, Jared Spurgeon, and is already eight points clear of their leader last season – and that was a full 82-game campaign. … Oilers rookie Nail Yakupov, the first player chosen the 2012 NHL Draft, has four goals and seven points in the past seven games.

Injury report: Edmonton forward Ales Hemsky is off for a week with a broken foot, Eric Belanger is skating but not ready to return from a groin injury, and defenseman Andy Sutton is out for the season. … For Minnesota, Dany Heatley is out after shoulder surgery, as is center Zenon Konopka with a foot injury. Backup goalie Josh Harding has started a conditioning stint in the American Hockey League as he tries to come back after being sidelined because of side effects from the drugs to treat multiple sclerosis, so veteran Niklas Backstrom is likely to be back in goal against Edmonton instead of promising, but inexperienced backup Darcy Kuemper.

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