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Wild try to end slide as Oilers come to town

by John Kreiser /

OILERS (15-17-3) at WILD (20-12-6)

TV: SNET-West; FS-North (HD), FS-Wisconsin (HD)

LAST 10: Edmonton 3-7-0; Minnesota 2-5-3

Season Series: It's the sixth and final meeting of the season between the Northwest Division rivals. Minnesota has won three of the five games, but the Oilers have points in all five -- all three Edmonton losses have come in shootouts.

Big Story: The Oilers started a two-week road trip with a thud in Vancouver, losing 5-3 on Monday night. But the Wild are mired in an eight-game losing streak -- loss No. 8 came Wednesday night when Minnesota lost 2-1 in a shootout at Nashville.

Team Scope:

Oilers: With Rexall Place and their practice facility both being used for the World Junior Championship, the Oilers spent Tuesday and Wednesday practicing in Leduc, Alta., before heading East. Their next six games are on the road, where they are just 5-11-1.

Part of the reason for the Oilers' road struggles is a lack of secondary scoring. They miss Ales Hemsky, who skated with a non-contact jersey in Wednesday. He's battling a sinus infection after overcoming shoulder surgery that slowed him earlier in the season. In 22 games, Hemsky has just three goals and 11 points.

"I'm feeling a little better, it's not 100 percent I still have some symptoms I don't really like but finally I feel better in the practice so it's coming," Hemsky told the team's website. "I just got an infection in my sinus and I'm losing my balance, and I don't see straight sometimes. I skated in Vancouver and couldn't see on the ice once I got going, it's not pleasant.

Wild: There hasn't been much to smile about for the last couple of weeks in Wild country, so getting a point on Wednesday was an optimistic sign. Dany Heatley's wraparound with 3:59 left in regulation earned Minnesota a point in Nashville, though the shootout loss kept the Wild winless in eight games.

"For sure it was important, and not just for the sake of getting a point," coach Mike Yeo said. "It was a reminder that if we stay with things, if we play our game for 60 minutes, then we are going to have a great chance to win the game. We didn't win the game today, but I believe we deserved to win it."

Who's Hot: Edmonton's Jordan Eberle has scored five times during a four-game goal-scoring streak and has seven points in his last five games. … Heatley has two goals and four points in his last three games.

Injury Report: In addition to Hemsky, who's likely to be a game-time decision, the Oilers are still without top defenseman Ryan Whitney, who's still sidelined with an ankle injury but may return before the trip ends. Defenseman Cam Barker is still recovering from ankle surgery, and rookie d-man Alex Plante suffered a concussion in Vancouver. … Clayton Stoner (groin), Guillaume Latendresse (post-concussion symptoms), Casey Wellman (wrist) and Devin Setoguchi (left ankle) are all on injured reserve are on IR for Minnesota, and defenseman Jared Spurgeon didn't play Wednesday with a lower-body injury.

Stat Pack: Minnesota has scored just twice in its last 24 power plays. … The Wild have allowed just eight power-play goals (on 66 attempts) in their 18 home games. … Edmonton averages a League-low 26.0 shots per game; the Wild is 28th at 26.6.

Puck Drop: The Oilers are in the top 10 in both special teams. It's their play at even strength that's been the problem as they head out of town for their next six games.

One of the few Oilers who's had some success outside of special teams is Ryan Smyth, one of the NHL's top crease-crashers. Coach Tom Renney would like some of his younger players to emulate Smyth.

"Five-on-five we have a few guys that are struggling offensively," Renney said. "But isn't it interesting the way (Smyth) plays and where he goes to get his goals five-on-five? So I'm hoping that others will note that."

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