After what seems like an eternity, the Oilers are back on the ice tonight against the Minnesota Wild. When you have four days between games and only four games in the first 16 days of the season, today many Oiler fans are uttering words they thought they’d never say,"I’m really pumped about about watching the Wild tonight."
Watching the Wild can be as exciting as a root canal at times, but most of us are sick of having to be productive in our lives. Spending quality time with your significant other, cleaning the house, reading a book, doing laundry or winterizing the house, those are things that we get to after the game. Four days between games really limits our ability to procrastinate, so next year I propose the only time we see a four day break is around Christmas or the all-star break.
In case you’ve forgotten what the Oilers look like here’s their lineup for tonight:
Tonight is the final game of the first "five-game evaluation" for Tom Renney. Renney and his coaching staff want to evaluate their players after five-game sets, so tomorrow will be an interesting day in how they chart and grade their players. I’m not sure if you will see any major changes for the next five games, but they will put a plan in place regarding their backups, and some possible possible shuffling of the lineup.
CULLEN OFF TO WILD START
Minnesota native, Matt Cullen, is loving playing in his home state with eight points in the first five games. Cullen will play with Guillaume Latendresse and Martin Havlat tonight, and the Wild quietly have a dangerous top-six that includes Mikko Koivu in between Andrew Brunette and Antti Miettinen.
Their top-six is very dangerous with the man advantage. The Wild are a ridiculous 45.8% on the PP in their first five games, although they are only 1-5 on the road this year. Tonight is only their 2nd road game of the season and their first road game in North America. They torched the Oilers with four PP goals on six chances last Thursday, and the Oiler coaching staff is well aware they need to be better on the PK tonight. The Wild have eleven PP goals,and only five EV. If the Oilers can stay out of the box they should have a good chance to win.
The rest of the Wild lineup will look like this:
- The Oilers play 11 back-to-back games this year, while the Wild play 19 sets of back-to-back games. That is almost half of their season (38 games) in back-to-back sets.
- Watching the Wild centres practice faceoffs it doesn’t surprise me how good they are in the dot. Koivu and Brodziak had a spirited practice session on faceoffs. They both clearly wanted to win, and they were taking faceoffs like it was a game. I watched the Oilers practice earlier, and they did work on draws, but the intensity in their draws was much lower than the Wild. Practice like you play, and I’ll be curious to see if the Oilers faceoff practice intensifies in the future.
- Renney thinks moving Hall down a line will help him. He thinks Hall’s game might work better with Cogliano and Brule. They will be more of a grind along the boards line than Horcoff and Eberle. We will see.
- Interesting that Hemsky only has 14 points in 36 career games v. the Wild. He has looked very good this year, and I wonder if tonight is the game he breaks out against the Wild.