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Preview: Wild face Oilers in pursuit to continue streak

The Wild are streaking and Edmonton is the next stop.

Minnesota Wild v Edmonton Oilers Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images

On the heels of a shootout win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, thanks to a chip shot by Kirill Kaprizov, the Minnesota Wild take their six-game winning streak on the road tonight against the Edmonton Oilers.

The Oilers are 16-7-0 (32 points), good for a second place ranking as of this morning. In November, they started off on a three-game winning streak, which lifted them to a 8-5-0 finish.

This is the first of three meetings between the Wild and Oilers this season with the two remaining contests set for January and April.

The last time these two teams met was on Feb. 21, 2020, where Jared Spurgeon netted his first career hat trick in a 5-3 Wild win over the Oilers.

Despite their strong effort this far into the season, the Oilers have lost two of their last three contests with their most recent loss coming at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday. Goalie Mikko Koskinen allowed five goals in the game — three in the third period — while center Connor McDavid was ejected after boarding Kings right wing Adrian Kempe in the same period.

Prior to that, Edmonton dropped Friday’s game against the struggling Seattle Kraken after goalie Stuart Skinner struggled within the net and allowed four goals to the 15th most scoring team in the NHL.

Speaking of scoring, the Oilers and Wild rank within the Top 5 in goals per game. Minnesota comes in third with 3.71 GF/G while Edmonton sits at fourth-best with an average of 3.65.

The Oilers’ scoring campaign is led by center Leon Draisaitl who leads the NHL in both points (43) and goals (21) this season. Draisaitl is also tied with Colorado’s Devon Toews for tenth in the league’s plus/minus race (15).

Burning Questions

Can Minnesota take advantage of Edmonton’s recent defensive struggles?

Take a look at recent scoring patterns for both teams. The Oilers struggled to gain any momentum throughout the early portions of their last two games and, consequently, found themselves on the losing end.

In Friday’s game, Seattle netted two goals in both the first and second period, leaving the defense to clean up in the third frame. Whereas in Sunday’s contest, Los Angeles gained a one goal advantage while holding Edmonton scoreless in the first period.

Minnesota, on the other hand, shut out New Jersey and Toronto in the first and third periods, only suffering damage during the second.

The Wild need to score early and buckle down in the second period if they want an easy path to victory tonight.

Will Kaprizov continue his streak of dominance?

To keep it brief, yes, he will.

Kaprizov has had a fiery start to December, nabbing four points in two games. While he was limited to one assist in Saturday’s game against Toronto, he netted the go-ahead shootout goal that lifted the Wild to another win. In addition, his lone assist helped Mats Zuccarello pad the Wild’s lead on a Power Play opportunity in the second.

He’s found ways to contribute during Minnesota’s run of dominance and, barring any special circumstance, should carry it over against the Oilers.

Who could carry goaltending duties for Edmonton?

The Oilers’ goalie depth has taken quite a beating this season, but despite this, they’ve posted the 11th-best save percentage in the league this season (.911).

ESPN’s Greg Wyshynski said that Edmonton is “inconsistent” within the net, citing that offensive production balances out the turmoil their goalies face, but he adds that Skinner has been a “pleasant surprise” during his rookie season, sitting outside the Top 20 in goals saved above average.

Mike Smith missed some time this season due to injury, and Koskinen is in hot water after allowing the aforementioned seven goals in two games.

Regardless of who the Oilers go with tonight, it shouldn’t be a problem for Minnesota’s offense. They have enough offensive starpower to overtake whoever Edmonton opts to roll with.