It’s not often that teams get to face each other three times in two weeks, but that is just how the NHL schedule has worked out for the Minnesota Wild and Edmonton Oilers. Now, we get to have a mid-season trilogy of games between two teams that are top-heavy with superstars, but one is much better defensively than the other.
Wild vs. Oilers
When: 7:00 p.m. CT
Where: Xcel Energy Center
TV: SN1, BSNX, BSWI
Radio: KFAN 100.3
In the first matchup on Dec. 1, the Wild dominated the Oilers to a complete and full-team victory. It was the first time that we caught a glimpse of last season’s record-breaking team again and we all felt like this season was finally on the right track after Minnesota got stuck in the mud for far too long. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl were limited in their offense, and Kirill Kaprizov made the Oilers’ defense pay on multiple occasions.
Then eight days later, the two would collide again but this time the Oilers had the home ice advantage and that showed. The Wild lost 5-2 and the blame should be on them not being able to stay out of the penalty box for the top-tier Oilers power play to come on the ice; not necessarily that Edmonton out-played them.
Either way, the season series is currently tied and we are looking forward to what should be a hell of a high-octane game as these two collide once more to figure out what team can be more reliant on their stars to provide the goals.
Projected Wild lineup
Kirill Kaprizov — Sam Steel — Mats Zuccarello
Jordan Greenway — Joel Eriksson Ek — Marcus Foligno
Sammy Walker — Frederick Gaudreau — Matt Boldy
Mason Shaw — Connor Dewar — Ryan Reaves
Jake Middleton — Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin — Matt Dumba
Jon Merrill — Calen Addison
Marc-Andre Fleury will get a start, but it should be noted that Filip Gustavsson certainly deserves a little bit more attention and not just the other guy for back-to-back games.
If it ain’t broke, I can’t imagine Dean Evason trying to fix it. They will most likely be heading into tonight’s game with the same lineup that walloped the Vancouver Canucks to the tune of 3-0.
Sammy Walker played decent on his debut and certainly deserves more of a look next to Frederick Gaudreau and Matt Boldy. His time up in the NHL is probably limited — since Brandon Duhaime and Ryan Hartman are expected to make their returns from injury within a week or so — but he deserves the opportunity to play with the talent he’s playing with.
Projected Oilers lineup
Leon Draisaitl — Connor McDavid — Zach Hyman
Mattias Janmark — Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — Kailer Yamamoto
Dylan Holloway — James Hamblin — Jesse Puljujarvi
Klim Kostin — Devin Shore — Derek Ryan
Darnell Nurse — Cody Ceci
Brett Kulak — Tyson Barrie
Philip Broberg — Evan Bouchard
Jack Campbell will maybe be the starter tonight. We previously said that and it turned out to be Stuart Skinner. Without someone tweeting out the lines from morning skate, we really have no idea. Flip a coin to see what goaltender will get scored on by Kirill.
It’s the same old Oilers that we know and dislike. Stars at the top, diminishing returns as you scroll down the lineup and you see players that you kind of forgot about or once had high potential as prospects and are just hanging out on a decent team. But, the one difference offensively was that Kailer Yamamoto didn’t play in the first game of the trilogy, but did in the second. His presence was a noticeable upgrade for the overall ability to get scoring chances for Edmonton, so I guess that’s something to look out for.
Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m.
Can the Wild take two or fewer penalties?
We’re trying to be realistic in our goal-setting. Of course it would be ideal for Minnesota to not even come close to walking into the penalty box tonight, but we know that is going to happen — it is just the way the league and the team are.
So, can they keep the risk to a minimum? Especially considering that they are facing a team that can just immediately score if they have the man advantage, with the talent they have; they should probably at least try to stay on the ice.
Can Sammy Walker earn his first NHL point?
It would be so nice for the 23-year-old hometown boy to get his first NHL point during his first game in St. Paul. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen much success from the Wild’s rookies at owning the moment and starting their big-league careers with a bang, but maybe Walker can do what Marco Rossi could not.
How will Marc-Andre Fleury look? Should we start another goaltending controversy?
With Filip Gustavsson playing so damn well right now, we are just waiting for a poor streak of games to come from the Wild’s starter to announce another controversy and to start petitions for Evason to have the young Swede start more games. We all know that it will take a lot for Minnesota to switch up their tandem order, but if the elderly netminder starts to slip up a little bit, we’ll be getting ready. Let’s just hope Fleury can have a shutout or something so we can celebrate having two good goaltenders.