The Edmonton Oilers won’t have to leave the province of Alberta the rest of the regular season.
With seven games remaining, the Oilers look to improve their postseason position Sunday night when they open a six-game homestand against the Minnesota Wild, who are also in the mix for a Western Conference playoff spot.
Edmonton (36-30-9) avoided a fourth straight loss with a 5-3 win at Anaheim on Friday to conclude a brief two-game road swing.
Tied with St. Louis for the eighth and final playoff spot in the wild West, the Oilers open their second six-game homestand before concluding the regular season at provincial rival Calgary on April 11.
That final stretch could prove beneficial for Edmonton, which is 16-13-6 at home, but 1-1-2 there since a 3-2 win over Minnesota on Feb. 28—its most recent win at Rexall Place in regulation.
“Every game is like a playoff game for us now,” Oilers goaltender Dwayne Roloson said. “You just try to focus on every game from here on. It doesn’t matter who we play.”
Though the Wild (35-32-8) have won three of the five contests between the teams this season, the Oilers have been victorious in both games at Rexall Place and won four in a row overall at home in the series.
Minnesota is currently 11th in the West and three points behind Edmonton with seven games remaining.
“In hockey, you never give up,” Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom said. “You go out there and you battle until the buzzer or until someone says the season is over. Until then you fight.”
The Oilers, though, scored on their first two shots and added two goals 9 seconds apart to take the lead in the second period.
Roloson made 51 saves in his team-record 31st straight start to improve to 27-20-9 with a 2.76 goals-against average.
“It was just unbelievable goaltending,” Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said of Roloson, who is 2-2-1 with a 2.56 GAA this season against Minnesota, the team that traded him to the Oilers during the 2005-06 season.
Hemsky has a goal with four assists in his last three games and two goals with an assist against Minnesota this season. Kotalik, meanwhile, looks to extend his goal-scoring streak to four games.
Andrew Brunette has a goal and an assist against Edmonton this season and scored for the second straight game in Minnesota’s 3-2 loss at Calgary on Saturday.
James Sheppard added his fifth goal for the Wild, who have alternated wins and losses in their last six contests.
“We’re supposed to be fighting for our lives here to get into the playoffs and it’s just not a good effort,” said Wild forward Owen Nolan, who was held without a point Saturday, but has two goals and an assist versus the Oilers this season.
Backstrom made 37 saves, but fell to 33-23-7 with a 2.37 GAA. The All-Star likely will be back in net trying to improve on his 12-1-0 career record and 1.67 GAA against the Oilers.
His only blemish came in a 3-1 defeat at Edmonton on Jan. 30.