Evander Kane, Jared Spurgeon, Leon Draisaitl, Matt Boldy, Minnesota Wild

Minnesota Wild Gameday Preview: Edmonton Oilers – 10/24/23

The Minnesota Wild looked like they were going to get off to a solid start in the 2023-24 season after winning two of their first three games, but a beat down from the Los Angeles Kings and a painful loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets have flipped that narrative completely. The Wild are a good team, but they rely heavily on the top players to carry a lot of the load, and with two of them still injured in Jared Spurgeon and Matt Boldy, the entire team has looked completely out of sorts. They will look to take advantage of a drowning Edmonton Oilers team tonight to get back in the win column.

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The Oilers have been gifting their local media with a plethora of items to talk about. From their 1-3-1 record against weak opponents to Leon Draisaitl mocking a reporter’s question (again), to Evander Kane making some snarky comments about ice time, it seems like the Oilers are being dragged down a difficult path. All of this is great news for the Wild who should be able to take advantage and hopefully come away with a win.

Minnesota Wild Lineup

The Wild’s plans were derailed early by a pair of injuries to one of their top defensemen in Jared Spurgeon and a top goal-scorer in Matt Boldy. A third injury to Alex Goligoski looked to handcuff the team completely salary cap wise but it proved to be the most serious as he was the only player to be placed on long-term injured reserve (LTIR), giving the team a form of temporary relief from their cap struggles.

Minnesota Wild Gameday Preview Kirill Kaprizov, Matthew Boldy, Jared Spurgeon, and Marc-Andre Fleury
Kirill Kaprizov, Matthew Boldy, Jared Spurgeon, and Marc-Andre Fleury (The Hockey Writers)

That LTIR space was originally used to bring Sammy Walker into the lineup, but a pair of losses since then has seen Walker sent back down to the Iowa Wild with veteran Vinni Lettieri replacing him with defenseman Daemon Hunt joining him for the trip to Minnesota. Hunt provides them with an extra option on the back end, but he is not expected to draw into the lineup. If he does, it would be an NHL debut for the 21-year-old third-rounder who has been seen as the most NHL-ready of the Wild’s many defense prospects.

Kirill Kaprizov – Ryan Hartman – Mats Zuccarello
Marcus Johansson – Joel Eriksson Ek – Pat Maroon
Marcus Foligno – Marco Rossi – Freddy Gaudreau
Brandon Duhaime – Connor Dewar – Vinni Lettieri

Jonas Brodin – Calen Addison
Jake Middleton – Brock Faber
Jon Merrill – Calen Addison

Filip Gustavsson – Marc-Andre Fleury

Related: 4 Minnesota Wild Overreactions to First 4 Games in 2023-24

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*Lines are as of yet unconfirmed and based on previously seen line combinations.

Keys to the Game

Veteran Defense Needs to be Better

There is just no avoiding the fact that without Spurgeon to lead the Wild’s defense they have been completely out of sorts. The pairings have been put into a blender and no matter what combination of six players comes out it seems like they have completely forgotten that they are supposed to stop the other team from getting 40-plus shots on net every night. Brock Faber has emerged as the best defender so far in this early season, and no offense to Faber as he is a fantastic rookie, but that just shouldn’t happen when you have veterans like Jonas Brodin and Jacob Middleton.

Jonas Brodin Minnesota Wild
Jonas Brodin, Minnesota Wild (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

While there is an understanding that Brodin is used to having Matt Dumba as his partner, he has had more questionable games in the last two seasons than I believe he has had in the rest of his career. He was always a rock-steady defensive defenseman that could be relied upon in any situation, but that seems to be changing for the worse. He needs to find his game again, and soon, if the Wild plan on making it past the first round this season.

Bury the Drowning Oilers

The Oilers were hyped in the offseason as a potentially serious playoff contender that could join the ranks of the Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights at the top of the Western Conference. Instead, they fell flat on their face out of the gate and are currently missing not only their best player but the best player in the world, Connor McDavid. McDavid is out with an upper-body injury and without him on the roster, the Oilers are suddenly a lot less scary, although they still have some lethal offensive weapons to watch out for.

Next on the Dockett

As this is the Wild’s last game in their short homestand, they will head out on the road after this to the East Coast with a back-to-back against the Philadelphia Flyers and Washington Capitals before starting five games in a row against teams that start with “New” as the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, and New York Rangers are all clumped together in the schedule.

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