Wild-Oilers Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated April 16, 2013
While the Minnesota Wild are presently focused on securing their first playoff berth in five seasons, the Edmonton Oilers made a move they hope will pay off in the future. The visiting Wild look to win consecutive games for the first time this month while trying to hand the Oilers a season-high sixth straight defeat Tuesday night. Though Minnesota's 4-3 win at Calgary on Monday was its third in 10 games, the Wild (23-16-3) are sixth in the Western Conference and are closing in on their first postseason berth since 2008. "Every game matters," Wild captain Mikko Koivu told the NHL's official website. "I think every team, every player recognizes that but you can't think about it too much ahead. You've just got to go game-by-game. I know it sounds like a cliche but that's what it is right now." Edmonton (16-18-7), meanwhile, has been outscored 17-4 during a five-game skid that followed a five-game winning streak during which it held a 25-7 scoring advantage. As a result of the team's recent slide and what's likely a seventh straight season without a playoff appearance, the team fired general manager Steve Tambellini on Monday and replaced him with former Oiler player and coach Craig MacTavish. "Despite showing areas of improvement over the course of the season, the face of the matter is we are not where we want to be right now, nor where we should be,'' Oilers president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe said. "And because careers are short and opportunities for achievement don't come along very often, we feel strongly that it is important that we make some changes right now.'' Edmonton also announced that former assistant general manager Scott Howson, who was recently fired as GM in Columbus, returns as senior vice president of hockey operations - the position previously held by MacTavish. MacTavish spent eight seasons (2000-01 to 2008-09) as Oilers head coach and guided them to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006. He'll try to reshape a team that has some solid young talent but has yet to turn that into any success. Edmonton has been held to one goal in each of the last four contests and looked lackadaisical throughout Saturday's 4-1 home defeat to provincial rival Calgary. "We really have to look ourselves in the mirror after this one," coach Ralph Krueger said. "We have to figure out what kind of team we want to be. There are still seven games ahead of us and we have some serious analysis to do right now." Young Edmonton stars Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have each failed to record a point in the last five games after they combined for 12 goals and 20 assists in the previous five. Eberle is the only member of that trio with a point during the Oilers' two losses to the Wild in 2013. Koivu, who had a goal with two assists in Minnesota's 4-2 home win over Edmonton on March 3, snapped a nine-game goal drought Monday. The Wild have scored six times to record three points in the last two games, matching their goal total while losing five of the previous six. Acquired by Minnesota from Buffalo at the trade deadline, forward Jason Pominville scored twice Monday and has four goals with two assists in six games with his new club.
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