EDMONTON, AB - The Edmonton Oilers meet a red-hot Minnesota Wild team that's in a fight for their playoff lives, only three points out of the final Wild Card position in the Western Conference.
“They’re playing well," said Oilers interim head coach Todd Nelson." But once again, we’re going to approach the game the same way. We want to get shots going to the net. We have to get traffic."
Former Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk has been outstanding for the Wild since being acquired from the Arizona Coyotes about a month ago. In 15 appearances, he is 11-2-1 with a 1.73 goals-against average and .936 save percentage.
"We’re facing a team that’s playing well and a good goaltender. You have to generate shots and put them on the net, and make the goalie work.”
The Wild were 18-19-5 back on January 15, before acquiring Dubnyk. They were eight points back of the last playoff spot. Their 11-2-2 record since then has gotten them to within striking distance.
PETRY & LANDER UPDATES
Jeff Petry will not play tonight after a rib injury cut his last game short. Petry shouldn't be out for too long, but Anton Lander was placed on injured reserve this morning.
“As for Petey, it’s day-to-day. He’s still sore so he’s not going tonight. We’ll see how he is tomorrow morning. As for Anton, we don’t expect him to play in the near future.”
The Oilers called up defenceman Jordan Oesterle from the Oklahoma City Barons but Keith Aulie will draw in against the Wild.
“Keith Aulie’s in tonight. Jordan’s on his way in (from OKC) tonight.”
As for the Lander injury, the Oilers did not elect to call someone up for now. They will try Benoit Pouliot at centre.
“Tonight we’re going to move Pouliot to the middle. He’s had some experience playing centre. He’s excited,” Nelson stated. “We have versatility with Pouliot. It’s a nice thing to have.”
Pouliot played centre for a game or two earlier this season.
Nelson said the team will miss Petry's presence on the blueline.
“He plays a lot of minutes. He plays against the opponent’s top line. Any player you lose out of your lineup is going to affect how you perform. It gives an opportunity for other guys to step up. We have options, obviously, but we’re hoping to get Jeff back as soon as possible.”
The Oilers have had a considerable amount of success lately in the shootout. In the 23 games since Todd Nelson has gone solely behind the bench, they have had seven shootout games. Edmonton won five of those.
Nelson was asked about the strategy of going second in the shootout. The home team gets to decide when they go and normally the home team chooses to go first.
“It’s all feel, right? Some teams like to go first. But this year, if I have the choice we’re going second. A lot of times they (the home team will) dictate if you’re on the road. We feel comfortable going second.
“In years prior I always went first but didn’t have a high success rate down in OKC with the shootouts. For us, this year, it seems to be working,” he said. “It’s all feel.”
POWERFUL POWER PLAY
The Oilers have also had a ton of success on the power play with Nelson behind the bench. In 23 games, they have a 21.5% power play rating. That is contrasted with the 12.0% the team had before Nelson took the reigns on his own behind the bench.
“Continuity with the units that we have," Nelson said when asked about the success. "We haven’t changed personnel on the units. I think they’re getting used to each other. When you have good chemistry you can try some different looks. I think that’s the biggest thing. I think we’re shooting the puck more, which is good. And guys are feeling more comfortable with the surroundings in their position.”
Season series: Charlie Coyle's goal with less than five minutes remaining in regulation was the difference for the Minnesota Wild in a 2-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Jan. 28 at Rexall Place.
Wild team scope: Minnesota had an optional skate Thursday in Edmonton following a 3-2 win in overtime against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday. The Wild were without defenseman Jared Spurgeon for much of the game after he was hit in the face by a puck in the first period and did not return. Spurgeon sustained an upper-body injury and will not play against the Oilers, coach Mike Yeo said. The Wild will likely recall a defenseman from Iowa of the American Hockey League, with Christian Folin or Jonathon Blum the two likeliest options. Minnesota could also go with Stu Bickel, who has been a healthy scratch each game since being recalled from Iowa on Feb. 10. Former Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk will get the start. He made 23 saves in the victory at Edmonton last month. Minnesota is 9-1-0 in its past 10 games at Rexall Place.
Oilers team scope: Edmonton did not practice Thursday after a 4-3 shootout win against the Boston Bruins on Wednesday. The Oilers also had to win shorthanded, with forward Anton Lander and defenseman Jeff Petry injured during the third period. Lander injured his shoulder and Petry took a puck to the ribs; neither returned. They were to be reevaluated by team personnel Thursday and are questionable. Edmonton had three healthy scratches (defenseman Keith Aulie and forwards Luke Gazdic and Rob Klinkhammer) against Boston, but a roster move before the game can't be ruled out. Goaltender Ben Scrivens made 38 saves against the Bruins and didn't allow a goal on 12 attempts in the shootout. He's likely to get the nod against Minnesota, a team he is 0-2-0 with a 3.50 goals-against average and a .870 save percentage against in his career.