Wild ready to feast

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

After witnessing the worst night of Oilers hockey they can, or would ever care to, remember, fans are expecting a lot out of their 10-2 losers tonight against Minnesota.

They want Edmonton to storm out of the gate like gangbusters, attacking like there's no tomorrow, flying around like maniacs trying to plaster anything that moves, each guy taking it upon himself to make something happen. So do the Minnesota Wild.

One of the best counter-punching teams in the NHL, Minnesota lives for catching opponents out of position. They'd love it if the Oilers came out like madmen.

"There's a lot of pressure for the game, as there should be, we just have to channel that energy in the right way," said head coach Craig MacTavish. "The worst thing we could do is go out there with complete reckless abandon; we have to play an intelligent game.

"Minnesota is a team that thrives on turnovers and patience. Their number one attribute as a team is trying to make you beat yourself. They prey on frustration. We have to expend some mental energy along with some physical energy."

Frustrating as it may be to play, and sometimes watch, a Minnesota Wild game is like a chess match. They forecheck more now than they did in the past, but the cornerstone of their system is still based on capitalizing on somebody else's mistakes. The end result is often a low-scoring game in which both sides are focused on staying in position and reluctant to take any creative chances - which probably isn't what the fans at Rexall Place are hoping to see.

"They are one of the grosser teams in the league to play against," said winger Erik Cole. "They really test your ability to stick to your game plan and not get frustrated. Turnovers and mistakes will cost you against a team that just wants to sit back and feed off of turnovers."

So, rolling up the sleeves and screaming "charge!" might not be the best approach.

"We've had that style before and it doesn't work," said Shawn Horcoff. "We want to play with a lot of intensity and a lot of energy, but we need to play smarter. It was more mental mistakes the other night that beat us.

"It's a fine line between having that intensity and running around like idiots and not thinking the game.

"We're a team that when we're playing our systems properly we're tough to beat. In order to do that you have to have all five guys on the same page and thinking the same way. It's more of a mental game for us."

Edmonton hasn't had much luck with Minnesota lately - the Wild are 11-2-1 in the last 14 meetings - but they did win their final two home games against the Wild last season. So the Oilers do have a blueprint on how to beat them.

"We need to come out and play our game plan and play it well," said Cole. "Play with composure and with confidence. If we do that and we're smart with the puck and manage the puck well against a team that feeds off of turnovers, we should be able to have success."


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