MINNESOTA WILD AT EDMONTON OILERS
9:00PM Central, Rogers Place, Edmonton, Alberta
TV: Fox Sports-North, CBC, Sportsnet
Radio: KFAN 100.3 and affiliates
Streaming: Fox Sports Go app
The kid can play.
Greetings from beautiful Vancouver, BC, where Mrs. Pants and I had the absolute pleasure of watching 41-year-old Matt Cullen have his way with the Canuckleheads at Rogers Arena last night. Cullen was great all game, leading rush after rush, twirling around in the offensive zone to create time and space, and recording a goal and an assist to earn “First Star” honors. Other highlights of our trip north so far (in case you’re interested) have included bumping into Mikael Granlund’s parents while having a pre-game beverage, being the victim of Canadian road rage, and using a bidet for the first time.
It wasn’t a perfect game by the Wild, which conceded the opening goal 53 seconds into the game. But it was a lovely response to those (like myself) who were concerned Minnesota may fall flat after cruising to an easy win over Carolina on Tuesday. Really, the score should have been quite a bit higher in Minnesota’s favor, as Charlie Coyle missed a wide open net, and Cullen was robbed of two more markers by Vancouver netminder Anders Nilsson. Regardless, it was an important road win for the Green ‘n’ Wheats, which held their position three points ahead of the Stars, who also won last night. Minnesota did also gain back a bit of ground on second-place Winnipeg, which was idle Friday.
The Wild finishes its quick swing through Western Canada tonight against the Edmonton McDavids, with a chance to extend its winning streak to four games and come home with oodles of good feelings.
Well, what more can we say about the Oilers? It’s been yet another disastrous season in Edmonton, which last year made it to the playoffs for the first time since entering its “Decade of Darkness” in 2006. But the team—despite holding one of the best players of all time—has returned to its irrelevant and utterly disappointing ways.
GM Peter Chiarelli has made two blockbuster trades in the last two offseasons to try to shore up his team’s blueline, which has been seen as the biggest weakness for the club. But to bring in defensemen Adam Larsson and Ryan Strome, Chiarelli sacrificed Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, who have combined for 53 goals and 121 points on their new teams, while Larsson and Strome have both been… fine… in Edmonton. By selling off two of his best wingers—dealing from a position of organizational strength—Chiarelli has now made his team too thin on the wings and has all but managed himself out of town.
Oh, and by the way, the Oilers still can’t defend, being that they have given up the fifth-most goals in the league this season. But without Hall and Eberle, they now struggle to score as well (other than McDavid, who has casually recorded 81 points and is third in the NHL in that category). With young superstars McDavid and Leon Draisaitl locked up long term, and tons of other youthful talent in the organization, this team will get back to relevance in the coming seasons, but saying that this season has been an utter disappointment would be an understatement.
The Oilers sit in sixth place in the Pacific Division, at 29-34-4. They have won their last two, however, and will be better rested than the Wild tonight. Edmonton also won the first of three matchups between these teams 3-2 in December.
Devan Dubnyk looked shaky at times last night, letting a few pucks squeeze through his pads and punching some of his rebounds out into dangerous areas. But the gigantic netminder admirably battled through to an ultimately strong outing, stopping 30 of 32 shots along the way. I thought Minnesota’s play in the defensive end of the ice really helped Dubnyk get settled, as most shots—after Michael Del Zotto was allowed to fire away from point blank range in the opening minute—were kept to the outside and away from high-danger zones. If Minnesota can continue that type of defending down the stretch, even when Dubnyk is having off nights as he seemed to be in the early stages of Friday’s game, then the big blocking netminder will make enough saves to get the Wild through most games. Assuming Alex Stalock gets the start tonight with the Wild on the second of back-to-backs, Minnesota will give him the best opportunity to win if it can again box out Edmonton, just as it did for Doob in Vancouver.
It was mentioned in yesterday’s Preview that Minnesota’s key veterans are starting to get cooking offensively, and last night was no different. Zach Parise scored Minnesota’s first goal to quickly answer Del Zotto’s game-opening tally, on a beautiful shelf job from a bad angle. Parise is getting on a nice little roll all of a sudden, having scored in three straight games and posted points in six straight. As the rhyme goes, winning is easy with Zach Parise… scoring more often than not… and not being hampered by back issues. Zach has looked really good of late.
Thank goodness Coyle got an empty netter last night, because his miss of an uncontested tap-in in the first period and subsequent whiff a few minutes later were enough to make you wonder if he’d ever recover mentally. But he got on the board in the end, so Chuck will be fine.
Still no Nick Seeler, who did not make this trip due to a biceps strain and a case of the flu.
Edmonton is physically healthy, but its players and fans are suffering from a bad case of hurt feelings.
The Gamethread will post at 8:30PM Central, so swing on by! Below are the projected lineups, thanks to DailyFaceoff.com. Thanks for reading!