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  • Preview: Wild looking for repeat performance against Oilers


    The last time these two teams met — a whole eight days ago — it gave us new confidence in the Minnesota Wild. The way that they handled the high-end offensive firepower of the Edmonton Oilers with relative ease and looked dominant and like a team that can give any team hell; it seemed to be the kickstart of a new stretch of season where we can be more at peace with any result.

    Wild at Oilers

    When: 8:00 p.m. CT
    Where: Rogers Place
    TV: BSN, BSWI, SN1
    Radio: KFAN 100.3 FM

    It wasn’t the Wild team that started the season on shaky ground, not being able to do their patented defense and the stars didn’t fully come alive yet, but it was a team that just looked so damn good. When the line of Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid, and Zach Hyman were on the ice — on-paper, the most skilled line in the entire NHL — the Wild were the better team by a drastic margin. Getting the advantage in shot attempts, shots on goal, expected goals, scoring chances; whatever metric you want to use. It was beautiful.

    Can the Wild put in the same performance for the same result? Maybe not. The crucial difference is that this time the Oilers are at home and will have that advantage when it comes to matching up the lines. It was primarily Joel Eriksson Ek’s job to stifle McDavid, so it would not surprise anyone if they try to stay as far away from our top two-way center as possible.

    Projected Wild lineup

    Kirill Kaprizov — Sam Steel — Mats Zuccarello
    Jordan Greenway — Joel Eriksson Ek — Marcus Foligno
    Nic Petan — Frederick Gaudreau — Matt Boldy
    Mason Shaw — Connor Dewar — Ryan Reaves

    Jake Middleton — Jared Spurgeon
    Alex Goligoski — Matt Dumba
    Jon Merrill — Calen Addison

    Marc-Andre Fleury is projected to start, but we could also realistically see Filip Gustavsson take the reins to give Fleury a little break in the middle of a road trip.

    We don’t think the Wild will make any changes ahead of this matchup in Edmonton. The top two lines are running well enough and Matt Boldy’s issue with not really having any other skill on his line will continue until...well, there is a trade made I guess.

    On the blue line, Jon Merrill was the scapegoat for a lot of the defensive miscues in Calgary, but the issue is that there just really isn’t anyone else available. The one change we could see — if Dean Evason is feeling frisky enough — is putting in towering blueliner Andrej Sustr next to Calen Addison on the bottom pairing, for some added size against a team not really used to getting pushed around.

    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 is projected to start, which is good news for Wild fans. With an .872 save percentage and 4.12 goals against average, Campbell might be the worst regular starter in the entire NHL. The Oilers took a massive gamble that the netminder that started over 30 games (for the first time in his career) last season for the Toronto Maple Leafs, would have the same success on a team that is worse defensively. And it looks like to be a disaster already.

    On the forward lines, the one addition is that Kailer Yamamoto is back from injury and could provide enough offense beyond the first line to give the Wild some trouble. He wasn’t in St. Paul back on Dec. 1, so let’s just hope that he has some rust on him.

    Puck drop is at 8:00 p.m.

    Burning Questions

    Can the Wild keep the Oilers to under 25 shots on goal?

    Last time, Edmonton managed to only trouble Marc-Andre Fleury with 21 shots. It will be a tough task to try and repeat, but still well within the range for the Oilers’ depth to not be adequate at all and have some goose eggs in the shot column on the stat sheet.

    Please, all we ask for is for them to take minimal penalties.

    It’s not so much a question but knees-on-ground plead for the Wild to not ruin their efforts with taking so many damn penalties. It can be avoidable! Against the Calgary Flames, it was yet another performance completely done in just because the Wild were in the box too much and let the game get away from them. Just minimal penalties. Two? Maybe?

    For the umpteenth time in a row, can we get the old Matt Boldy?

    We know, we know. It doesn’t help having basically a bottom-six center that is much better defensively than offensively, and an AHLer on the same line as Boldy, but we just want to see some damn points! Maybe he can combine with Kirill Kaprizov for another highlight-reel goal on the power play? Just let us praise you, Matt.

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