"The Oilers are a young team learning how to win," has become a common refrain used to excuse some poor performances this season. But none have been poorer than the game against the Kings, a game in which Hemsky, Hall, Hartikainen and Paajarvi showed up, but the rest of the team was there to collect a paycheck.
Learning how to win is really the key to hockey, not actually playing good hockey. Or something like that. If the team wants to win games, they have to be better. Ralph Krueger has to be better as well, and start caring about line matching, because he's getting his lunch fed to him by almost every opposing coach.
Oilers Report: Devan Dubnyk is back in net and Theo Peckham is now paired with Mark Fistric on the bottom pairing, because according to coach Ralph Krueger, Peckham is "tough to play against." There are few statements less true than that one. Peckham has been overwhelmed by NHL play for the bulk of his career, and were it not for the Oilers paying names like Strudwick, Barker, and Chorney during his time with the team, Peckham would be considered one of the worst defenseman in the NHL. The Oilers need to bounce back, especially Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins who spent most of the game against Los Angeles watching Taylor Hall play; and Sam Gagner, who somehow has added the dreaded drop pass to the opponent back to his repertoire. Keep on eye on Paajarvi and Hartikainen - the two have been the Oilers best players on the boards this season.
Wild Report: The Wild have been rocked by a flu epidemic that's spread throughout the team, though they've been better by the shot clock with the flu. No lineup changes are expected for tonight, but Pierre-Marc Bouchard may draw in with Matt Cullen.
Expected Line Combinations
Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle
Teemu Hartikainen - Sam Gagner - Ales Hemsky
Ryan Smyth - Eric Belanger - Nail Yakupov
Ben Eager - Chris VandeVelde - Magnus Paajarvi
Justin Schultz - Nick Schultz
Ladislav Smid - Jeff Petry
Theo Peckham - Mark Fistric
Scratches: Ben Eager, Corey Potter, Ryan Whitney
By The Numbers
The Wild are again a bottom-five possession team.
Edmonton still has the most efficient special teams in the league with a 111 STE. Minnesota ranks 18th at 99.1. For more on STE, see here.
In the race to the bottom, Edmonton has the current advantage on Dallas for the worst shot differential in the league.
Even if Sam Gagner drops off to a .5 p/g pace for the rest of the season, this will have been his most successful season (by the counting stats) by an enormous margin. At the same time, should he continue on his current pace, this will be his worst possession season...ever. And he was a teenager on some terrible teams.
Minnesota is 20th in shot differential at -1.4/g