THE STORY: The Edmonton Oilers finally figured out how to beat the Minnesota Wild last week. They’ll try to repeat the feat without star forward Taylor Hall as they entertain the Wild on Wednesday in a Northwest Division battle.Minnesota had defeated Edmonton eight straight times – the last two coming via shootout earlier this season – before the Oilers finally countered with an efficient 5-2 triumph last Friday. Hall had the game-winning goal and an assist in that game but suffered a shoulder injury against the Colorado Avalanche and will miss the next 2-4 weeks. The Edmonton offense wasn’t the same in its first game without him, managing just 18 shots in a 2-1 loss to theNashville Predators on Monday night. Minnesota is coming off an impressive 3-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning after dropping its previous two games in Edmonton and Calgary.
TV: 9:30 p.m. ET, TSN, Fox Sports North, Fox Sports Wisconsin.
ABOUT THE WILD (14-7-3): Niklas Backstrom atoned for a terrible performance in Calgary with 32 saves against the Lightning. His improved play, combined with backup Josh Harding having tailed off following a hot start, may have secured Backstrom the starting job he had lost earlier in the year. The Wild would be wise to start Backstrom against the Oilers. He has been an Edmonton killer over the course of his career, going 20-2-2 with a 1.66 goals-against average and four shutouts.
ABOUT THE OILERS (12-10-2): Edmonton’s power play has suffered in Hall’s absence, going scoreless in six opportunities over the last two games. The top line of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Smyth remains one of the most potent combinations in the league, but the second unit of Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky and Magnus Paajarvi will need to be better. Paajarvi, who has assumed Hall’s role in the top-six forwards, has just one assist in 20 games this season.
1. Edmonton’s five-goal outburst last week equaled its entire output from its previous four games against the Wild.
2. Eberle is still looking for his first goal against Minnesota, having recorded five assists in eight career encounters.
3. Nine of Backstrom’s 24 career shutouts have come against the Oilers and Calgary Flames.
PREDICTION: Wild 3, Oilers 1.