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Wild Warmup: Minnesota at Edmonton

Wild opens four-game Canadian road trip against Oilers

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers / Wild.com
The Essentials

Who: Minnesota Wild (32-11-5, 69 points, first place, Central Division) at Edmonton Oilers (28-15-8, 64 points, second place, Pacific Division)

Puck drop: 8:00 p.m. CT

Watch: FOX Sports North; FOX Sports GOWild Watch Bar Locations; NHL.TV

Listen: KFAN 100.3 FM

Follow: @mnwild; GameCenter


The Opponent

The Edmonton Oilers entered the All-Star break red hot, winners of seven of their final eight games before the break. Connor McDavid leads the NHL in scoring with 59 points, including 42 assists in 51 games this season. Leon Draisaitl leads the club with 19 goals while Patrick Maroon is just behind with 18. Minnesota carries a seven-game winning streak in Edmonton into the game Tuesday and is 12-1-0 against the Oilers here dating back to Dec. 22, 2011.


Connections

• Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk was the 14th overall selection by the Oilers in the 2004 NHL Draft and was 61-76-21 in 171 career games with Edmonton between 2009-14. 

• Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon is from Edmonton.

• Oilers forward Tyler Pitlick went to Centennial High School in Circle Pines and played one year at Minnesota State. 

• Oilers forward Benoit Pouliot was selected fourth by the Wild in the 2005 NHL Draft and played in 65 games with Minnesota between 2006-09. 

• Oilers forward Matt Hendricks is from Blaine and played four seasons at St. Cloud State University.


Back to reality

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. It marks the latest point of the season the Wild has led the Western Conference in franchise history, previously Dec. 17, 2011 after Game 33.


At the rink

After an exhausting stretch, which saw the Minnesota Wild play nine games in the final 15 days before the All-Star break, most Wild players found plenty of time to kick up their feet and get some much needed rest during the three-day weekend. 

It's a rare stretch of down time for Minnesota, which still must play 20 games in 35 nights left to wrap up the regular season. 

For Tyler Graovac, who has been up and down between Minnesota and Iowa over the first half, the break allowed him a good opportunity to relax and reflect.

After he was recalled from Iowa in late October, Graovac didn't bring a bunch of stuff with him from Des Moines to St. Paul. After a while, not having all his clothing, including suits, became a bigger problem. 

That meant an occasional trip to Iowa just to pick up things every so often, including his vehicle. With his family busy during the weekend, it gave him a good excuse to stay in the Twin Cities for a few days and have some time to himself.

"Did a little bit of laundry and mellowed out," Graovac said. "It was almost non-stop since the first day of training camp up to this break. Even involving Christmas, it was almost busier than the normal schedule just with seeing family and friends and traveling."

With the break now over, it's time for the Wild to get back to business. With 34 games remaining in the regular season, Minnesota will begin its post All-Star stretch with a four-game, nine-day trip north of the border, one that has the potential to set the tone for the stretch run.

"We want to get off to a good start post All-Star break," said Wild forward Zach Parise. "We're playing a really good team out of the break. But, and we talked about this yesterday, we've done a really good job of breaking it down by the week [to] be over .500 on the weeks and win the weeks. I don't think our mentality on that is going to change and it starts with this game."

Video: Wild Pregame at Edmonton

Edmonton entered the All-Star break having won seven of its previous eight games and has been one of the better teams in the NHL over the past month. It boasts one of the game's best players in Connor McDavid, who leads the League with 59 points.

"They're starting to believe that they are good, and they are good, they have some pretty good players," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "They're big, they're strong, they're getting good goaltending right now and they're getting healthier on the back end. You add that up and it usually equals success."

Minnesota has done a good job of neutralizing McDavid in two meetings with the Oilers this season, keeping the young sniper off the scoresheet.

And while that will be the Wild's mission again on Tuesday, it's one that is far easier said than done.  

Video: Bruce Boudreau Pregame at Edmonton

"Anytime you play Edmonton, he's going to be, first and foremost, the most prominent player out there," Boudreau said. "We'll definitely have to pay a little bit closer attention to him. I think every team says that, but not a lot of teams get it done. It'll be a tough job, but we'll try our best."

Here are the projected lineups:

WILD

Nino Niederreiter - Eric Staal - Charlie Coyle

Mikael Granlund - Mikko Koivu - Jason Zucker

Zach Parise - Erik Haula - Jason Pominville

Chris Stewart - Tyler Graovac - Jordan Schroeder

Ryan Suter - Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella - Matt Dumba

Mike Reilly - Nate Prosser

Darcy Kuemper

Devan Dubnyk

OILERS

Patrick Maroon - Connor McDavid - Leon Draisaitl

Benoit Pouliot - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle

Milan Lucic - Drake Caggiula - Anton Slepyshev

Matt Hendricks - Mark Letestu - Zack Kassian

Oscar Klefbom - Adam Larsson

Andrej Sekera - Kris Russell

Brandon Davidson - Matt Benning

Cam Talbot

Laurent Brossoit

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