SAINT PAUL, MN - In a throwback to the old Northwest Division days, the Oilers are on a rare one-game road trip to the State of Hockey, set to clash with former division foe the Minnesota Wild tonight in a rematch of Friday’s game in Edmonton.
The Oil had a rough go in Friday's matchup, struggling to generate offensive opportunities and finishing with just 15 shots on goal in a 4-0 shutout loss. And the man credited with the goose egg? Former Edmonton netminder Devan Dubnyk, who is a perfect five-for-five in games against his old mates this season (with Arizona and Minnesota).
The game plan for tonight? Pretty obvious. Get significantly more shots on goal and traffic in front of the net to try to throw Dubnyk off his game, which will be a tall order as the goalie has won three straight with a stingy 1.32 GAA. The Oil were effective on the shots-on-goal front Saturday vs. Anaheim, out-shooting the Ducks 27-21.
“It’s really important we come in here and play a similar style as we did against Anaheim,” Oilers bench boss Todd Nelson said. “We want to build off that, even though we didn’t get two points. I thought our work ethic was very good, and our guys competed very hard, so that’s what we’re looking for tonight.”
“(Dubnyk) is playing well and found his groove,” added defenceman Jeff Petry. “I think we just need to continue putting 30-plus shots up and getting traffic to the net. He’s good at making that first save, but if there’s traffic in his eyes, he’s going to have to fight to see the puck a lot more.”
“He’s stood on his head every time against us and really battled,” added Minnesota native Matt Hendricks. “We’ve got our hands full with him. We have to get pucks on net and get traffic in front of him. We need to come out and play our system better and we need to have energy. If we do that, we have an opportunity to beat them.”
The Oilers will get a boost on the back end tonight as Petry makes his return to the lineup after missing Friday vs. the Wild and Saturday vs. the Ducks with sore ribs. The d-man took a shot in the mid-section last Wednesday vs. Boston and said the bruising hindered his ability to rotate, but he’s now healthy enough to play.
“I’ve had no issues,” Petry said. “I skated the morning of the Anaheim game and then we had the day off after that. I skated yesterday with no issues and then today I felt fine again.”
Petry, who ranks second in team scoring among blueliners with 15 points in 58 games, will rejoin usual partner Andrew Ference. Oscar Klefbom and Justin Schultz will stay together, as will Martin Marincin and Mark Fayne. Jordan Oesterle, who made his NHL debut on Saturday, and Keith Aulie are tonight’s defensive scratches.
Oesterle was impressive in his debut, logging 16:34 TOI and putting a couple of shots on goal, in addition to executing the intangibles like moving the puck up the ice and winning battles in the defensive zone corners. With Petry able to play again, though, Coach Nelson said he wanted to reset the usual pairs.
“(Jordan) played an outstanding game for us,” he said. “It gave us some healthy discussions in the coaches office, but with Petry back we wanted to get back with the group we had prior to his injury.”
YAK TWEAKS GROIN
While the Oilers get a key player back on defence, they’ll also lose one up front as Nail Yakupov will miss tonight’s game with a sore groin. The winger tweaked the muscle during Saturday’s game vs. Anaheim and left Monday’s practice early after it tightened up again.
“(His groin) didn’t respond yesterday in practice, so right now we’re being precautionary,” Coach Nelson said. At this point, the injury is considered quite minor and Yakupov will be assessed day-to-day.
Nevertheless, it’s a tough setback for Yakupov, who has been steadily producing of late, scoring points in seven of the last eight games, including a two-goal performance in Winnipeg on Monday, Feb. 16. With the Russian out of the lineup, the Oilers forward lines are as follows:
With Yakupov out of the lineup, there’s a window of opportunity for Matt Fraser to step in and contribute on the second line with Derek Roy and Teddy Purcell. Since he was picked up from the Boston Bruins, Fraser has three goals and seven points in 20 games, but he’s been held off the scoresheet in his last eight appearances. Oddly enough, those eight games followed a three-point night against the Buffalo Sabres.
“He’s getting a great opportunity,” Nelson said. “If Derek finds him, we want him to shoot the puck. And he also fits into the team style we want to play. We want to be competitive and finish checks.”
Between the pipes, Ben Scrivens will make his fourth consecutive start, with Viktor Fasth still on the shelf with his knee injury and OKC call-up Richard Bachman filling in as the back-up.
-- Ryan Frankson, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (17-34-10) at WILD (31-21-7)
TV: SNOL, FS-N, FS-WI
Season series: Justin Fontaine and Nino Niederreiter each have scored two goals as the Minnesota Wild defeated the Edmonton Oilers twice in the past month, each time at Rexall Place.
Oilers team scope: Edmonton skated at home Monday before departing for the Twin Cities. Forward Nail Yakupov left practice early with an ailment and did not return. Coach Todd Nelson said Yakupov tweaked something in Edmonton's game against the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday, and leaving practice was a precaution. He will be on the trip, but his status could be something to keep an eye on. The Oilers got some good news on the injury front as defenseman Jeff Petry is ready to return to the lineup. Petry has missed the past two games with bruised ribs.
Wild team scope: Minnesota had good attendance at an optional practice Monday, with all but six players hitting the ice for work. One of those six was defenseman Jared Spurgeon, who missed his second game Sunday in a 6-2 win against the Dallas Stars. Spurgeon has an upper-body injury after being hit in the chin with a puck last week in Calgary, and despite him feeling better Wild coach Mike Yeo said he will not play against the Oilers. Yeo hasn't ruled out Spurgeon for the two-game road trip to play the Nashville Predators and Colorado Avalanche this weekend. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk will get the start, looking for his sixth victory this season against his former team. He started each game against the Oilers for Minnesota and three others when he was with the Arizona Coyotes, accumulating a 5-0-0 record and allowing four goals total in that span. The Wild are 20-2-1 in the past 23 games against Edmonton at Xcel Energy Center. -- NHL.com