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Oilers in for a Wild ride tonight

by Staff Writer / Edmonton Oilers

After finishing December with four straight losses, the Oilers turned things around almost immediately at the start of the New Year and take a five-game streak gaining at least one point into their game tonight versus the Minnesota Wild.

The Oilers opened 2007 with a 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers on January 2 and followed that up with a shootout and overtime losses to Dallas and Vancouver respectively. Their last two games were both wins in California, defeating Los Angeles 2-1 in overtime and taking out the San Jose Sharks 3-2.

Minnesota has had a bit of a roller coaster ride this season since starting out at 9-1-0. They had won three straight during a hectic post-Christmas schedule including a difficult 4-3 win in regulation over Anaheim but then proceeded to lose their next three.

The Wild and Oilers have been swapping positions in the standings on an almost regular basis over the past month. Heading into tonight's game, the Wild are one point ahead of Edmonton for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

OILERS TO WATCH: Dont look now but Jarret Stoll has tied Petr Sykora for the team lead in points with 37. Over his last 20 games, Stoll has scored eight goals with 14 assists for 22 points and is +10 Last game, Jan Hejda continued his strong play since being recalled from Hamilton after Christmas. Hejda racked up a career high 26:47 of ice time on Wednesday in San Jose to lead all Oilers skaters. Four of his five points this season have come since his recall.

WILD TO WATCH: Brian Rolston is once again having an outstanding season for the Wild, leading the team in goals with 22 and points with 40 Pierre-Marc Bouchards 35 points has him well on pace to better his career mark of 59 set last season Mikko Koivu has already surpassed his total of 21 points set last season. With 29 points through 44 games, Koivu ranks tied for third in Wild scoring... Marian Gaborik made his return to the Wild lineup on January 6 and after going scoreless in a pair of games he broke out in a big way with two goals last night.

ROSTER UPDATES: Edmonton – Ethan Moreau (shoulder) is out. Daniel Tjarnqvist (hip/groin) is doubtful. Ladislav Smid (shoulder) has been upgraded to probable. Steve Staios (flu) is doubtful; Minnesota – Petteri Nummelin (upper body) is questionable.

LINEUP UPDATE (11:48 AM): Ladislav Smid is expected to make his return to the lineup tonight, replacing Tom Gilbert on the blueline. Staios will likely miss a second straight game with the flu.

FAST FACTS: Minnesota's win last night against Vancouver was their first victory on the road against a divisional opponent this season... The Wild have already gone to the shootout 10 times in 2006-07 compared to only three times for the Oilers. In those ten times, Minnesota has won a league-high seven games. Koivu leads the way with six goals on 10 tries for the Wild. Defenceman Petteri Nummelin, who has only two goals all season, has scored on all four of his shootout tries but is likely out of tonight's game due to injury.
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