1. Wild captain out for season
Mikko Koivu injured his right knee in a collision with Buffalo’s Tage Thompson on Tuesday night, and Wednesday it was announced he was out for the rest of the season. Since Koviu is usually employed to check the other team’s big guns, Connor McDavid will be seeing Eric Staal or somebody else, a bit of a breather for the Oilers captain. 2. Two more for Leon?
Draisaitl scored two goals in Montreal in the 4-3 loss Sunday and two more against the Blackhawks Tuesday. He’s scored four of the last five Oilers goals, and has seven in his past five games in all. He’s never had a hat-trick but with 31 goals he’s sailed past his career high 29. Draisaitl and McDavid both have 31 goals, which means they have 62 153 goals the Oilers have scored, which is good for them, damning for the team. 3. Cam Talbot back as starter
Since Mikko Koskinen was signed to that three-year, $13.5 million deal just before GM Peter Chiarelli was fired, they’ve started him once. Cam Talbot will get his third start out of the bye week. You’re entitled to ask what the rush was to sign the big Finn when the season hangs in the balance and they’re going with the guy they appeared to throw overboard but coaches coach and managers mismanage. That’s not to say Talbot didn’t deserve the nod here because he was terrific through the first 40 minutes before the team around him totally collapsed in the third. 4. A reset for Russell?
Kris Russell personifies heart and soul but he has been a minus player five straight games and while nobody should ever question how hard he competes and how many bruises he has on his body from blocking shots, his puck-management doesn’t look as solid as it normally is the last two weeks. He’s minus-8 in the last five games. Adam Larsson struggled too for a stretch without Oscar Klefbom and kept playing and Russell has too many intangibles to come out, but maybe the second and third pairings need some shifting. 5. Is the losing eating at Hitchcock?
Nobody would blame the head coach if he goes off that Keto diet which has seen Hitch lose over 80 pounds (meat only, no shade vegetables). If he was seen to sneak a few chocolate chip cookies and jam them in his suit-coat pockets for any stoppages in play, rather than chewing on his fingernails, would that be so bad? God knows, his team doesn’t look very healthy these days. Chances are the head man will stay away from the sugar, but … Big Match-up
Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon vs Connor McDavid
Suter and the Edmonton product Spurgeon usually draw the toughest checking assignments and you’ll probably see them out against McDavid 90 per cent of the time, especially if Draisaitl is on the right side, with Ken Hitchcock likely moving his captain around to shake up Wild coach Bruce Boudreau’s schemes. McDavid, three points (78) behind NHL scoring leader Nikita Kucherov, had his 23rd two-point game of the season against Chicago so no matter who’s out against him he gets his points. But Suter and Drew Doughty are the two NHL D-men who don’t seem to get tired going against the other team’s big guns. Good battle here. Special teams
Oilers: PP- 35-158 22.1 percent (9th). PK-42-167 71.7 percent (30th)
Wild: PP-33-157 21 percent (15th). PK- 28–160 82.5 percent (8th)
Wild: Matt Dumba (upper body), Mikko Koivu (knee), Pontus Aberg (lower body) Game Day Lines (projected)
Tobias Rieder Connor McDavid Leon Draisaitl
Milan Lucic Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Alex Chiasson
Brad Malone Kyle Brodziak Zack Kassian
Colby Cave Jujhar Khaira Jesse Puljujarvi
Oscar Klefbom Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse Kris Russell
Kevin Gravel Matt Benning
Jason Zucker Eric Staal Mikael Granlund
Zach Parise Charlie Coyle Luke Kunin
Jordan Greenway Victor Rask Marcus Foligno
Kyle Rau Eric Fehr Joel Eriksson Ek
Ryan Suter Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin Greg Pateryn
Brad Hunt Nick Seeler
The great turtle derby is being contested by half the Western Conference. One thing is for sure: At some point, a couple of these teams are going to break away from the pack. The question in Edmonton is: Do the Oilers have the right team to do it?
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