EDMONTON, AB - Back and rested from the NHL All-Star break, the Oilers will host the Central Division-leading Minnesota Wild at Rogers Place Tuesday night.
This is the third time the two teams have met this season. The two previous matches needed extra time but the Wild came out on top in both. Edmonton lost 2-1 in overtime on December 4 and then 3-2 via shootout five days later.
As they've been wont to do all season, the blue and orange have shown they are capable of skating with the League's best. The team has yet another opportunity to prove they can topple a powerhouse.
"They don't give up much," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "[They are] one of the best teams in the League, I don't know any other way to explain it. We've been fortunate enough to come back against them a couple times and push it to overtime. We'd like to have a better start, be on our toes a little bit more."
The Wild sport some impressive numbers. The club is second in the League overall with a record of 32-11-5 and 69 points, boast a plus-51 goal differential and are 21-3-2 since the start of December. They allow the second-fewest goals per game (2.23), have seven players with 30 or more points and eight with 10 or more goals.
"They are a premier team in the League right now," said McLellan. "They're productive from all positions, goaltender, D, forwards, their depth shows up night in and night out. Based on that description, they're a deep playoff team and they'll be a big challenge for us."
Former Oilers netminder and 2017 NHL All-Star Devan Dubnyk appears to be getting the night off, with the second game of a back-to-back scheduled for tomorrow in Calgary. Minnesota will likely start Darcy Kuemper, who is 5-3-2 this season with a 3.28 goals-against average and .901 save percentage.
"If you're a goaltender at this level, you're qualified to play a good game and Kuemper has done that for them," said McLellan. "He's capable of playing well and their team plays so well in front of their goaltenders that we've got our work cut out for us regardless of who's in the pipes."
The team will have to get dirty around the paint and find garbage if they want to make life difficult for Kuemper.
"Get after the goalie, get in front of the net, make him work and find ugly ones because it's going to be an ugly couple of goals tonight," said winger Patrick Maroon, who ranks second on the team in goals with 18.
Kuemper is 3-1-1 with one shutout, a 1.58 goals-against average and .936 save percentage all-time versus the Oilers.
The Oilers will ice the same lineup as they did previously in California against the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks.
Barring any unforeseen changes, the lineup will be:
Maroon - McDavid - Draisaitl
Pouliot - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle
Lucic - Caggiula - Slepyshev
Hendricks - Letestu - Kassian
Sekera - Russell
Klefbom - Larsson
Davidson - Benning
Cam Talbot will start in goal.
Minnesota will be without defenceman Jonas Brodin who is sidelined due to a fractured finger.
The Oilers are 3-5-2 in their last 10 games against Minnesota, but 7-2-1 in their last 10 games overall.
-- Paul Gazzola, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (28-15-8) vs. WILD (32-11-5)
TV: 7:00 p.m. MST; Televised on Sportsnet West
This is the third and final meeting between the Oilers and Wild this season and the second meeting in Edmonton. The last time these teams met in Edmonton was on December 4th, where the Wild defeated the Oilers 2-1 in overtime. Patrick Maroon scored the Oilers lone goal in the game.
The last time these teams met was on December 9th in Minnesota, when the Wild defeated the Oilers 3-2 in a shootout. Leon Draisaitl and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins both scored for the Oilers. The last two games between these teams have been decided in extra time.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers are in the midst of their hottest stretch of the season, having picked up points in eight straight games (7-0-1).
With 363 points (156G, 207A) in 476 games as an Oiler, Jordan Eberle ranks 14th all-time. With three points, he will surpass Craig Simpson to move into 13th place all-time, and with five points, he will move into 12th place, tying Charlie Huddy with 368 points, but ranking ahead of him because of games played.
McDavid remains in first place in NHL scoring, with 59 points (17G, 42A) in 51 games. He has a four-point lead on Sidney Crosby (PIT). McDavid has led the league in scoring at some point in all four months of the 2016-17 season. He has led or co-led the NHL in scoring since Nov. 22, 2016.
After a rare night off in Calgary on Jan. 21, goaltender Cam Talbot registered back-to-back wins against Anaheim and San Jose in his return to the net, making a total of 58 saves on 59 shots (.983%). He registered his fourth shutout of the season in a 40- win in Anaheim on Jan. 25, and his 26th win in a 4-1 victory over San Jose on Jan. 26.
Talbot continues to lead all NHL goaltenders in games played (45), minutes (2708:43) and saves (1,348). He has a 230 minute lead on his closest competitor Martin Jones (SJ) in minutes played, and a 110 save lead on Fredrik Andersen (TOR).
With 26 wins, he ranks third in the NHL, and has set a new career-high. His previous career high was 21 wins, which he reached in both 2014-15 and 2015-16.
The native of Caledonia, Ont. has also made 30 or more saves in 19 games this season, including 32 of 33 in San Jose on Jan. 26. Talbot's record in those games is now 14-2-3. Talbot has also only allowed 3 or more goals in four of those games.
Wild team scope:
Minnesota opens a four-game Canadian road trip Tuesday. Since its first game of December (Dec. 2 at CGY), Minnesota has earned at least one point in a franchise-record 13 straight road games (11-0-2). The Wild (15-5-5) and Edmonton (15-7-5) are tied for the NHL lead with 35 points in road games this season, though Minnesota has played two fewer games.
The Wild has a seven-game win streak in Edmonton, having not lost since Dec. 22, 2011, and is 12-1-0 in Edmonton since Oct. 21, 2010. Overall, the Wild is 12-3-1 in its last 16 meetings with the Oilers. The Wild's 108 points against Edmonton are its most against any franchise, along with its 23 road wins, 26 victories at Xcel Energy Center and 49 wins overall.
Minnesota returns from the NHL All-Star Break with a 32-11-5 record for 69 points, ranking second in the NHL behind only Washington (72), who has played one more game. The Wild's 69 points are the most through 48 games by any Minnesota-based team in NHL history.
Minnesota leads the NHL with seven players who have registered at least 30 points this season. The Wild also leads the NHL with eight double-digit goal scorers this season. Minnesota had 11 players register double-digit goal totals last season.
Since they became a line on Nov. 25, Jason Zucker (12-13=25, +18) - Mikko Koivu (12-15=27, +23) - Mikael Granlund (8-22-30, +21) have totaled 82 points (32-50=82) and a plus-62 rating. Koivu leads the NHL in that span in plus/minus rating, while Granlund is T-2nd and Zucker is seventh. The Wild has gone 22-4-3 in that span.