Oilers, Jackets meet at 8 tonight
After three days without a game, the Edmonton Oilers return to action tonight against the Columbus Blue Jackets to conclude a five-game homestand.
The Oilers had bookended the All-Star break with a pair of losses on home ice – 4-0 to Calgary and 5-1 to San Jose respectively – but managed to bounce back with a 4-3 come-from-behind win over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday to help stay in the playoff hunt.
Edmonton has been able to stay with the pack as far as the tight Northwest Division is concerned. Only eight points separate first from fifth and it only figures to get tighter with a slough of intra-divisional match-ups coming up.
Columbus has had a rough go of it for most of the season, including a mid-season firing of head coach Gerard Gallant. As a result, they sit 13th in the Western Conference with some work to get back into the playoff race. However, they are currently playing some of their best hockey of the season with four straight wins against four tough opponents: Detroit, Buffalo, Minnesota and Vancouver.
OILERS TO WATCH: The reunited line of Ales Hemsky, Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff made some waves on Saturday night. Hemsky and Smyth both matched their career highs with four points apiece and Horcoff had a season-high three-point effort With his four points, Smyth moved into the team scoring lead at 41 points despite playing in only 40 games. He also leads the team in goals with 25. In fact, with 25 goals in 40 games Smyth ranks third in the league in goals-per game at .625 behind only Washingtons Alexander Semin and Minnesotas Marian Gaborik.
BLUE JACKETS TO WATCH: Former Oiler netminder Ty Conklin could get the start tonight against his old club with Pascal Leclaire and Fredrik Norrena both out due to injury. Conklin actually has the best goals-against average of the three netminders at 2.53. In eight appearances, he has four decisions and is 2-1-1 With 31 points in 44 games, Rick Nash is second on the Blue Jackets in scoring. Hes also tied with Sergei Fedorov for the team lead in goals with 14.
ROSTER UPDATES: Edmonton – Ethan Moreau (shoulder) is out. Daniel Tjarnqvist (inflamed pubic bone) is doubtful; Columbus – Fredrik Norrena (groin) is out. Pascal Leclaire (knee) is out. Bryan Berard (lower back) is probable. Duvie Westcott (upper body) is questionable.
LINEUP UPDATE (12:02 PM): The Oilers appear to be going with the exact same lineup as Saturday night's game which means Winchester, Nedved and Roy will be the healthy scratches and Markkanen will be starting in goal.
LINEUP UPDATE (4:45 PM): Columbus defenceman Bryan Berard is expected to play his first game of the season tonight for the Blue Jackets, returning from a lower back injury that sidelined him all season to this point.
FAST FACTS: The Blue Jackets are 15-1-4 when scoring first in a game Columbus is third worst in the league with 126 goals for on the season Since Ken Hitchcock has taken over as head coach, the Blue Jackets are 14-12-3 Having in played in Vancouver last night, the Blue Jackets will conclude their 16th of 21 back-to-back sets this evening against the Oilers. Overall, Columbus is 7-7-1 in the first game and 5-8-1 in the second game including both a win (4-0, Dec. 2) and loss (4-1, Nov. 10) versus Edmonton.