Oilers-Wild Preview

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

win.”

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

Tuesday.

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

defeat.

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.