The Minnesota Wild face the Edmonton Oilers tonight at the Xcel Energy Center with puck drop slated for 7 pm. This is the final home game for Minnesota and a victory will clinch a playoff spot, the first since the 2007-08 season. The Wild, Blue Jackets and Red Wings are all battling fot the final two playoff spots in the Western Conference. Entering tonight’s action the Wild are in 8th place with two games to play. The Redwings are in 7th place, a single point up on Minnesota and have just one game left on the schedule. Columbus sits in 9th with one game left and are tied in points with the Wild at 53. The Wild win the tie-breaker with Columbus based on a regulation and overtime win total of 21 to 18. The Wild can pick up a total of 4 points tonight and Saturday which could see them climb as high as the 6th seed. All of those scenarios aside the Wild must win tonight to clinch a spot in the postseason. Edmonton has been out of the playoff picture for a while now and are looking at a potential top 5 pick in the upcoming draft. The Oilers are not going to roll over for the Wild and are looking to play the spoiler role this evening.
The news is mixed on the injury front for Minnesota. Mike Rupp will be returning to the lineup tonight according to Head Coach Mike Yeo, but Jason Pominville will still be sidelined with what is being called an upper body injury. Pominville suffered the injury when he was elbowed in the head by Kings Captain Dustin Brown. The dirty play cost Brown a two game suspension and more than $34,000 in salary. The Wild called up Carson McMillan from Houston to fill the void, but with Rupp returning the Aero’s forward will be a healthy scratch tonight. At this point is appears that Torrey Mitchell will move up to fill Pominville’s spot on a line with Kyle Brodziak and Pierre-Marc Bouchard. With Rupp back in the lineup Jake Dowell will skate with him and Zenon Konopka. The Top line will remain the same with Mikko Koivu, Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle. That leaves Cal Clutterbuck, on a line with Matt Cullen and Devin Setoguchi.
The defensive pairing look to be unchanged from the last game which saw the L A Kings liminted to a single goal. Those pairings are Norris Trophy candidate Ryan Suter with Calder Trophy nominee Jonas Brodin. Jared Spurgeon will skate with big Justin Falk, while Clayton Stoner is paired with veteran Tom Gilbert. This group will have the job of shutting down a young and talented Oilers squad that has failed to gel this season despite a group of high scoring top draft picks acquired over the last few drafts. Defensively the Oilers have struggled allowing an average of 2.78 goals a game. The Wild give up an average of 2.56 goals per contest.
The Wild’s ace in the hole is goal tender Niklas Backstrom who seems to always do well against Edmonton. He has a 17-0-0 record, allowing just 1.34 goals against average and a .948 save % on home ice. In those 17 wins backstrom has allowed three or more goals only twice. As long as his teammates can give him some goal support and stay out of the penalty box a positive outcome seems likely. The Oilers will have Devan Dubnyk in net tonight with a 13-16-6 record, 2.59 gaols against, and a .920 save %. In three previous meeting this season the Wild have outscored Edmonton 12-6. This will be the second time the two teams have played at the X this year and the final time they face each other as members of the Northwest Division. Tonight the Wild need to jump out to a quick lead, play a physical game early and avoid too many extra curricular activities. Let the Oilers do the stupid stuff, they are far better at dumb plays, penalties for no reason, and cheap shots than the Wild are. The entire regular season has come down to tonight, win and you’re in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Minnesota has the players on offense, defense and in goal to get the job done and sweep the season series from Edmonton while securing a playoff spot. GonePuckWild.com will keep you up to date with all the Wild news and information you need. Your game day correspondent will be back after the action with a full recap and analysis. Until then this is Scott Drain shouting confidently, “LET’S GO WILD!!!!!”