The Edmonton Oilers’ last two first-round draft picks both
contributed to a win in the season opener.
Ending Edmonton’s woes at the Xcel Energy Center might be an
even bigger task for the young stars.
The Oilers will try to snap a 16-game losing streak in Minnesota
when they visit the Wild on Thursday night.
Edmonton (1-0-0) is 0-14-2 in its last 16 visits to the Xcel
Energy Center and was outscored 12-5 in three meetings there last
season. The 16-game stretch is the NHL’s second-longest active
winning streak by a home team over a visitor. Nashville has 17
consecutive home victories over Columbus.
The Wild, who are beginning a three-game homestand, outplayed
the Oilers everywhere in 2010-11, sweeping the six-game season
series by a 23-9 margin.
“We know that (Minnesota) will come hard at us,” Oilers rookie
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. “We need to be ready.”
A 2-1 shootout win over Pittsburgh on Sunday should have
Edmonton feeling ready for this matchup.
“We always approach it like we’re going to go in there and win,”
coach Tom Renney told the Oilers’ official website. “I don’t think
we place as much weight on this thing as (the media does). It’s not
like it’s a heavy load or a cross to bear. It’s another hockey game
in a building where we’ve had limited success.”
Renney’s club boasts a crop of young talent, which was on
display Sunday. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – the first overall pick in
last summer’s NHL Draft – tied the game with a goal late in the
third period with an assist from Taylor Hall, Edmonton’s top
selection from 2010.
Ales Hemsky had the deciding goal in the shootout.
“Going into the game I was really nervous, but I tried to use
that to my advantage,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “It felt pretty good.
… it was really exciting. But, I’m more excited about the
The young Oilers may have reason to be excited. Hall led the
team with 22 goals last season while fellow first-round picks
Hemsky, Jordan Eberle, Sam Gagner and Magnus Paajarvi are all also
coming off productive seasons.
Goaltender Devan Dubnyk, a first-round pick from 2004, stopped
33 of 34 shots in the opener after getting the starting nod over
veteran Nikolai Khabibulin. Dubnyk went 12-13-8 with a 2.71
goals-against average last season.
While Edmonton is one of three teams that has played only one
game, the Wild (1-1-1) have been much busier, playing their last
two on the road including a 4-3 shootout loss at Ottawa on
Minnesota led 2-0 at the end of the first period and 3-1 early
in the third, but the Senators scored twice in a span of less than
three minutes, then had three straight goals in the tiebreaker.
“At least we got one point, and in the end it could be a big
difference,” said Niklas Backstrom, who made 41 saves in the
Pierre-Marc Bouchard is eligible to return Thursday after
completing a two-game suspension for cross-checking Columbus’ Matt
Calvert in the face on Saturday. He had two assists in Minnesota’s
season opener and has two goals and nine assists during a six-game
point streak against the Oilers.