Oil vs The Wild

Going In

Tonight at 6pm, the Oilers take on the Wild in what will be deemed a must win. Really, isn't every game on this road trip a must win? Perhaps not, but while the Oilers sit outside the cut-line looking in, all of these games are of critical importance if Edmonton wants not to slip too far away from recovery. The Oilers have three of a possible six points on this road trip. Five of eight is much much better than three of eight points.

Who's In and Who's Out?

Taylor Hall will not play. As Krueger explains it, "Taylor's still feeling a strain in his leg that we want to err on the cautious side of with this type of injury. It's day-to-day where we expect him back really soon."

As a result, the top lines for Edmonton will see the Nuge with Hemsky and Yakupov, while Gagner will centre Eberle and Paajarvi. Paajarvi is rested and looking to get into a more offensive role with Edmonton. I see him having a big game and being a force with his speed all night.

Potter and Fistric still look to be out so Ryan Whitney will get a chance to reprise his strong performance against St. Louis and for a regular top minutes man in Nick Schultz, this will be the first time the Oilers assistant captain returns to Minnesota to play his former team. He's looking forward to it. Schultz spent ten years with the Wild and still leads them in all times games played.

Dubnyk will get the start as will Backstrom for the Wild. If Edmonton hopes to beat Minnesota, they're going to need to get more shots to the net. Their display against St. Louis was a big step down from their road win in Dallas and the Oilers will need to return to that type of play to have any success against a team that traditionally has Edmonton's number. Minnesota is 6-3-1 in their last ten, so they host the Oil as the hotter of the two teams.

Big Game Players

I have my eyes on three Oilers tonight.

First is Jordan Eberle. He's been quiet in the last few and hasn't had much chemistry with his usual mates. He needs a jump-start and perhaps moving down a line and playing with Gagner and Paajarvi might be good for him. He needs to shoot more and not every play needs to be a TSN highlight of the night. If he can keep himself playing a simple game, he should have a good outing.

As mentioned before, I see Paajarvi playing well. He'll get good linemates five-on-five and play some short-handed minutes.

I also see Yakupov trying to do the most with his first line time promotion. He wants to shoot and if he's playing with Hemsky and Nugent-Hopkins, two pass first type players, he's likely got the green light to shoot and shoot often.

On Deck

If Edmonton can come out of Minnesota with a win, they get the Blue Jackets next in a game they should win. Most people didn't give the Oilers a chance to make nine or ten points on this nine-game road trip. If they can get two tonight, that gives them seven. A win against Columbus would put them at nine and make the rest of the road trip points that should move them up the standings.


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