PREVIEW: Oilers at Blue Jackets
Oilers complete set of back-to-back games against Columbus
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RADIO: 630 CHED & Oilers Radio Network
PUCK DROP: 5:08 p.m. MT
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AT THE TEAM HOTELTonight the Edmonton Oilers head into Columbus having won four of their last five game. Columbus on the other hand, is struggling. The Blue Jackets have lost three of their last five, including a 7-0 defeat at the hands of the Oilers on November 19.
While the Oilers look to keep their success going, they can not overlook their opponents tonight.
"You have to make sure that you do play with confidence," said Oilers forward Taylor Hall. "Four out of five is a good streak here, but Columbus is a good team that always plays well in their building and it seems like they're always tough games and they're going to try an lull you to death a little bit but we got to make sure we stay out of the box, get our power plays, get our feet moving on this back-to-back and make sure that we go into Dallas feeling good."
With the last game against these two teams being a lopsided decision in favour of Edmonton, this could be a Columbus team looking to get some revenge.
"It's always a little bit of locker room material for the other team," said Oilers winger Ryan Jones. "I can remember in the past, we've said the same thing about Chicago and every time that we've been able to beat Chicago pretty handily, they always come back and play you hard. It's just one of those things. It's in the back of your mind all of the time and we have to be ready for them to come out flying. They're a disciplined team and they work really hard. That's just Columbus since they've been around, it's not going to be any different tonight. We know that they're going to work hard and make us earn all of the chances that we get."
For Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins, it's not so much about what Columbus can do, it will be about focusing internally and concerning themselves with their own performance.
"It's something we talked about last night before our game," said Eakins. "We've done an awful lot of pre-scouting, seeing what the other team is doing and preparing for that. I finally just got into a mindset, and it's an old mindset of mine, I just want to worry about our team. If we do certain things in the game, and we do them well, we're definitely going to be in the game, or we're going to be winning the game. That's just the fact of the matter.
"I'm not putting much thought into Columbus. I do know they're going to be desperate. They've been struggling as of late and I'm sure they want to get back on track. I think their lineup is a little depleted, I have looked at that. But sometimes that means the players have their backs against a wall and they really come out fighting. That's about the only thing I'll give our group on their team tonight, other than a couple of special teams points."
The Oilers were the beneficiaries of two 4-on-4 goals last night against Nashville during coincidental minor penalties. Edmonton boasts a plethora of talented, offensively skilled and fast forwards at their disposal which tends to tilt open ice to their advantage. In 4-on-4 hockey, there is more open ice to work with which has given Edmonton the upper hand on their opponents this season.
They currently lead the NHL in 4-on-4 goals with six this season.
"It's a weird concept out there," said Hall. "It's not something you practice a whole lot. You just get your experience during the game. You've got to make sure that you have your guy. It's man-on-man really. You want to create offence. You want to be creative and we have a team that has no problem doing that. You've got to make sure you're not on the ice for chances against but you get the puck and you've just got to fly."
FOURTH LINE PROVIDES BOOST
The Oilers switched up their fourth line going into last night's game against Nashville. They swapped out Luke Gazdic and Will Acton with Ryan Jones and Mark Arcobello.
The fourth line was a bright spot in last night's 3-0 road win, as they provided good opportunities for the rest of the lineup as well as generated chances of their own. Another benefit to their performance was the team's ability to distribute time on ice more efficiently between forward lines.
"Our fourth line provided a great jump for us, provided a lot of offensive zone time, a lot of face-offs in their end and it allowed us no to have to play every third shift, not to play 23 minutes," said Hall. "I'm comfortable with playing 18 minutes, if we're going to win every game. It's a great bounce back from that effort against Chicago. That's not how we want to play. To have an effort like that, against a team like Nashville, that can be pretty stifling at times is good."
Coach Eakins added, "We were able to get the lead and we were able to get into a rhythm with the four lines. I thought Arcobello, Jones and Joensuu were as good as any of our lines last night. I know some of our other lines maybe had more chances, but they were solid. Not only was it their play, but we weren't chasing the game. We were in control of the game which makes it easy to distribute and puts us in a good place for tonight as well."
Jones, who saw his first game action since November 13, felt that his line played well enough to earn a goal although they couldn't find twine.
"I thought it was a good game for our entire team and our line as well," said Jones. "I thought we did a good job of forcing whoever we were out against, playing in their defensive zone and anytime you can do that it's going to be a positive for your team. With the makeup of the line that we have, Jesse and I, it's kind of our job to get the pucks out of the corner and get it in Arco's hands. He's a creative, skilled player and he can make things happen. To be honest, I think our line deserved a goal, but you've got to earn them. We'll hopefully play another game like that tonight and hopefully get rewarded."
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
OILERS (8-16-2) vs. BLUE JACKETS (9-13-3)
TV: SNET-W ,FS-O
Last 10: Edmonton 4-6-0; Columbus 4-3-3
Series: This is the second of two meetings between the Edmonton Oilers and Columbus Blue Jackets. David Perron's career-high four-point game led the Oilers to a 7-0 win against the Blue Jackets on Nov. 19 at Rexall Place.
Big Story: The Blue Jackets' inconsistent season continued with a 4-0 loss to the Nashville Predators on Wednesday. Columbus has alternated wins and losses for six games, and though coach Todd Richards finds it hard to put a finger on the reason behind the inconsistency, the Blue Jackets are still a bit weary following a 3-2 road trip through Canada.
"You can't say we're not trying," defenseman James Wisniewski said. "It was just one of those games where we just didn't have it. We were practically on a 15-day road trip. We were on the road [in Washington and Boston], came home for 24 hours, and then went right back out for 10 days.
"Right now, we're a little banged up. We'll spend some time with the family and maybe it will rejuvenate us, and we'll get back at it Friday."
The Oilers arrive off a 3-0 win against the Predators in Nashville on Thursday.
Oilers: All eyes in Edmonton were on Ilya Bryzgalov and his first start since the Oilers signed him Nov. 8. Bryzgalov stopped all 33 shots in what was his first NHL start since April 25 as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers.
"Check marks across the board for him. He did a great job," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said after the game. "There were never any nerves. Start to finish, everybody played well... it was a textbook game for us."
Blue Jackets: Columbus' offense endured a brownout Wednesday in Nashville, failing to reach double figures in shots until 90 seconds were left in the second period. This from a team that enjoyed a 6-0 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday.
"They did a good job blocking shots, keeping us away from the net," Blue Jackets forward Mark Letestu said. "But we've got to find a way to get the forwards to find another level and create more offense.
"We're not concerned about the amount of shots, but maybe the quality of opportunities [Wednesday] wasn't what we wanted."
Who's Hot: Ryan Johansen was held off the score sheet against the Predators, but sparked the Blue Jackets against the Maple Leafs with two goals and an assist. Wisniewski contributed with two assists and a plus-3 rating ... Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has six assists in his past four games. David Perron has six points in his past five games, Justin Schultz has three in his past four and Taylor Hall seven in his past five.
Injury report: The Blue Jackets are without Nathan Horton (shoulder surgery), Cody Bass (broken thumb), Marian Gaborik (sprained knee), Jared Boll (bruised foot) and Brandon Dubinsky (bruised foot). Nikita Nikitin (lower body) is questionable ... The Oilers are missing Steve MacIntyre (knee), Corey Potter (strained back), Ryan Hamilton (knee), Tyler Pitlick (sprained left knee), Richard Bachman (strained groin) and Philip Larsen (back).
-- Jon Lane, NHL.com