The Edmonton Oilers successfully survived the early part of a schedule that could have easily buried them in the division standings. But coach Todd McLellan knows the journey is far from over.
After road wins on back-to-back nights, the Oilers open a two-game homestand Tuesday night against a strong Minnesota Wild club.
From Oct. 16 through last Saturday, Edmonton played six straight against teams that collected at least 100 points last season. The Oilers went 4-1-1 over that span, which included a convincing win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals last Thursday and an overtime loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins two nights earlier.
Ten games in and Edmonton (6-3-1) trails only the San Jose Sharks and Vancouver Canucks for Pacific Division lead. McLellan also knows his team must continue to show up for each game.
"In my opinion, the next 10 1/8are 3/8 just as tough. There aren't easy games. Every night, teams show up to play," McLellan said after Sunday's 2-1 win in overtime against the Chicago Blackhawks. One day earlier, the Oilers snapped a 13-game losing streak to the Nashville Predators with a 5-3 victory.
Minnesota (6-3-2) cracked the century mark in points last season and looks to bounce back after its season-high five-game winning streak ended with a 5-2 loss to the Canucks on Monday.
Edmonton went 2-0-1 against the Wild last season, and halted an eight-game winless skid at home to Minnesota with a 4-1 victory last March 10 thanks to two goals and an assist by Connor McDavid.
The reigning two-time scoring champion has his sights on a third crown. McDavid, who scored the game-winner Sunday, has goals in four straight contests and is fifth in the league with 17 points (eight goals, nine assists).
"This was the best game of the season, for sure," McDavid said in Chicago. "You want to build on each and every game. You want to build your game each and every day. I think we've done a really good job of that. It took us a little bit to get in the swing of things with one game in the first 10 days at the start of the season."
McDavid has four points (one goal, three assists) in four career home games versus Minnesota.
A quick start could prove beneficial for Edmonton as the Wild have given up the first goal in eight of their last nine games.
"You're playing with fire a little bit, and we've been fortunate enough to mount a comeback," winger Zach Parise told the Star-Tribune on Monday. "But eventually that's going to catch up with you. Tonight it did."
Mikael Granlund drew an assist Monday, giving him 10 points (five goals, five assists) in an eight-game points streak. Minnesota is 5-0-0 in Edmonton when Granlund records a point.
With games on consecutive nights, the Wild could go with Alex Stalock in net. The Minnesota native, who last saw action Oct. 20, has turned aside 51 of 58 shots while splitting two decisions this season.
Stalock is 1-1-0 with a 1.52 goals-against average in two career starts in Edmonton, but has not played there since December 2014 with San Jose.
Devan Dubnyk, a first-round pick of the Oilers in the 2004 NHL Draft, is 3-1-0 with a 1.24 GAA and one shutout against Edmonton since the Wild acquired him from the Arizona Coyotes in January 2015.
He made 26 saves against Vancouver in the opener of a season-high seven-game road trip.
The Coyotes won both games against the Senators a season ago, 3-2 in overtime in Ottawa on Nov. 18 and 2-1 at home on March 3.
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