The Oilers are in Minnesota for a short one-game road trip, and they will try to avoid their second three-game losing streak of the season. The Oilers have done well, 3-0, versus other non-playoff teams, but they are 0-6 versus winning teams. The Wild enter tonight with a 5-2-1 record and they have dominated the Oilers since the start of the 2010/2011 season, winning 17 of 22 games.
The good news for Oilers fans, however, is four of the Oilers’ five victories occurred in Minny. To stay in the playoff hunt, the Oilers will eventually need to defeat a playoff team.
Klefbom will play the right side and Nurse will skate on the left. Both are big and strong, with good mobility. Nurse has an edge and I’d love to see some of that nastiness rub off on Klefbom.
The Oilers have drafted and developed one top-four D-man over the past 19 drafts. ONE. Jeff Petry.
Prior to Petry, Tom Poti was the last D-man the Oilers drafted who consistently played top-four minutes in Edmonton and later on in Washington.
Since 1984, Poti and Petry are the only top-four D-men to emerge within the Oilers organization. That is beyond terrible and the main reason this organization has been average, and often well below average, since 1993.
Jeff Beukeboom (1983), Steve Smith (1981), Paul Coffey (1980) and Kevin Lowe (1979) played significant roles in the Oilers’ championship teams, and it is no surprise that since they moved on, the organization has struggled.
You need quality defencemen to compete in the NHL. I don’t expect Nurse and Klefbom to dominate immediately, but they will become the backbone of this defence very soon. The Oilers haven’t had two young D-men this good in the organization in 30 years.
We will need to see how Klefbom adapts to the right side before I’m willing to say they will be a pair long-term, but both of them have the size, ability and skill to be solid, and possibly dominant, defenders for the foreseeable future.
- Nurse makes his season debut tonight, and his speed, strength and nastiness will be a welcome addition to the blueline. He has played very well in the AHL, and Bakersfield head coach Gerry Fleming told me Nurse has played a strong, controlled game. He wasn’t trying to force is way into the rush, he only went when it was the right time.
The Oilers want their D-men to be active in the rush, and they want them stepping up and forcing the opposing forwards to make plays. Nurse’s skating ability should help him in both areas and pairing him with Klefbom means he will play close to 20 minutes tonight.
- Justin Schultz didn’t make the trip due to an unspecified injury. Griffin Reinhart was placed on IR yesterday so the Oilers could call up Nurse. Reinhart was placed on IR retroactive to October 19th, so he can come off later this week.
- The Oilers need the first goal. They have scored first in six of their nine games and they are 3-3 in those games, but they are 0-3 when the opposition scores first.
- Dubnyk had an MRI on his left knee and said it showed
inflammation but no damage. Head coach Mike Yeo said earlier today he is confident
Dubnyk is not at risk of getting any worse by playing.
- Dubnyk is 5-1 in six starts this year
with a .909sv% and 2.27 GAA. Once again Minnesota is near the top of the
league in shots against, allowing only 27.6/game, which is sixth best in
the NHL, while the Oilers are 27th in shots on goal/game at 26.7, and
the Wild sit 24th at 27.1/game.
- The Oilers PP has scored in five consecutive games (5 for 17, 29.4%),
after starting the season one for 14. Their PP is now 13th in the league
- The Wild PK is ranked 22nd at 77.3%, but that is
somewhat misleading. They allowed three PP goals in their first two
games on only five PK situations. Over their last six games they are 88%, allowing two goals on 17 kills.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
For the first time in a long time, the Oilers are a team that plays like one; blocking shots and backchecking which were two parts of the game that the team seldom wanted to be involved in under Dallas Eakins or Ralph Kruger. Don’t get me wrong, the Oilers still have a long way to go before they’re a contender but they seem to be on a path towards working their way out of the division and conference cellar now.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers’ struggles versus top teams in the West continue. They lose 3-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid picks up a point. He has four goals and eight points in his last five games. He is legit.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: After going pointless in his first nine games, Anton Lander scores.
Recently by Jason Gregor: