ST. PAUL, MN - After a four-game homestand that saw them go 1-2-1, the Oilers head back on the road, albeit briefly, for their second meeting of the season against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday night before returning home.
And given their last visit to the State of Hockey, revenge will be front of mind as the Oilers look to make up for a 3-0 shutout defeat to the Wild back on October 22, resulting in just their second regulation loss of the season.
Heading into Thursday night, the Oilers still hold top spot in the Pacific Division with 40 points and it's due in large part to their play on the road. With a 10-6-1 road record on the season and having gone 7-3-0 in their last 10 away from Rogers Place, the Oilers are hoping that consistency behind enemy lines shows up against a Minnesota squad that has very much turned their fortunes around since the last time the two teams met.
"They're a deep team and they come at you hard," said projected starter Mike Smith.
"They play their systems well and it's always a tough challenge coming into this building and with this group we're playing against."
After faltering out of the gate in October, the Wild have come out swinging of late, going 6-1-3 in their last 10 to slowly climb the Western Conference standings where they currently find themselves four points out a wild card spot.
In contrast to the Oilers road warrior status, the Wild have made their hay at home, boasting a 7-1-3 record and winning four of their last six on home ice and picking up at least a point in the two losses-all factors the Oilers are well aware of as they converge on the Xcel Energy Center for the second time this season.
"They're always good in this rink. It's a tough barn to play in," said Oilers forward James Neal, who will suit up in his 800th NHL game on Thursday night.
"I think for us, it's more about ourselves. We've got to get back to doing the little things and all the simple stuff that makes us a good, fast team."
After a tough ending to their recent homestand with Tuesday night's 6-3 loss to Carolina, Head Coach Dave Tippett didn't have to dig deep to pinpoint what needs to improve against Minnesota for the Oilers to get back in the win column on Thursday night.
"You look at how the game went, two of our strengths this year have been goaltending and penalty killing and we got nicked on both of them," said Tippett.
"It hasn't happened very often but we've got to regroup tonight. Minnesota is playing a lot better lately and we've got to come in and play a real strong game."
STOPPING THE BLEEDING
In addition to a solid road record, the Oilers consistency in snuffing out losing streaks has also gone a long way in their ability to stay atop the division as they remain the only team in the NHL who has yet to suffer a three-game slide this season.
"It gives us confidence in our game knowing that the biggest games of the year, we get up for. It's a good test for us," said Neal.
"Guys understand where we're at in the standings and we're not there by accident. It's about getting back on track now and not letting a couple bad games turn into three or four," added Smith.
After sitting out last game, both Alex Chiasson and Sam Gagner will slot back in on right wing with Coach Tippett doing some tinkering up front.
"Every day you gear the lineup to where you think you can win. We're hoping (Chiasson and Gagner) both jump in and give us a spark," said the bench boss.
Thursday will be the second of three meetings between the Oilers and Wild this season. The Oilers were shutout 3-0 in their first visit to the Xcel Energy Center on October 22.
The Wild are 24-6-1 in their last 31 home games against Edmonton dating back to 2007 and 3-2-0 in their last five.
The season series wraps up on February 21 when Minnesota makes their lone visit to Rogers Place.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers clawed their way back from a three-goal first-period deficit at home against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, but a whirlwind of a final frame from the visitors capped off the contest in a 6-3 victory.
A season-high three power-play goals allowed to Carolina knocked the Oilers penalty kill out of the top-five and into eighth place in the NHL (84.6 percent). Connor McDavid added to his league-high total of 55 points in 33 games coming into Thursday's game with three assists on Tuesday.
The Oilers concluded their four-game homestand at 1-2-1 with their loss to the Hurricanes.
On the other side of the special teams, the Oilers are first in the NHL on the power play (31.6 percent) and have scored a power-play goal in each of their last five games.
Wild team scope:
The Wild are losers of two-straight games after a 3-2 shootout loss on Tuesday to the Anaheim Ducks in Mikko Koivu's 1000th game in Minnesota colours.
The point was enough to extend the Wild's point streak at home to double digits with a 7-0-3 record in its last 10 games at the Xcel Energy Center.
Former Oiler Devan Dubnyk has not played since November 16th, with Alex Stalock holding a 5-1-2 record in his absence while rookie netminder Kaapo Kahkonen is 2-0-1 and hasn't allowed more than two goals in a game since making his NHL debut on November 26.
The Wild currently sit four points behind the Vegas Golden Knights for the second wild-card spot with two games in hand and are 10-3-4 since starting the season 4-9-1.
By the Numbers:
The Oilers are 1-4-2 against the Central Division in 2019-20. ... Minnesota's 53 wins (53-29-6-4) against the Oilers are the most against any opponent in their history. ... The Wild's 8-1-4 record in their last 13 games is tied for the second-best in the NHL since November 14th. ...
Leon Draisaitl's 22:50 of average ice time this season is an NHL-high among forwards. ... Zach Parise has 12 points in his last 13 games after recording six in his first 18 contests of the season. ... Alex Stalock is 3-2-0 with a 2.33 goals-against average and .921 save percentage in seven career games against the Oilers. ...
OILERS - Matt Benning (concussion) is on IR.
WILD - Greg Pateryn (bilateral) is on IR; Jared Spurgeon (fractured hand) is on IR; Mikko Koivu (lower body) is on IR.