Oilers-Blue Jackets Preview
EDMONTON OILERS (16-19-4) at
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (17-15-6)
4:08 p.m. MST
Rogers Sportsnet West
630 CHED, Oilers Radio Network and online at edmontonoilers.com.
Game Notes | Edmonton/Columbus Stats Comparison | Player Head-to-Head Statistics
2007 comes to a close tonight for both the Edmonton Oilers and Columbus Blue Jackets in a late afternoon meeting between these two clubs.
The Oilers have gone winless in their last five games (0-3-2) and look to conclude the 2007 calendar year on a positive note. So far, in the month of December the Oilers are 5-5-3 and could complete their second consecutive month at .500 or better with a win or OT defeat this evening.
Last game, the Oilers had a 4-1 lead against the Minnesota Wild but let it slip away. The Wild scored twice in the third period and again in overtime to get the win. With a single point for the loss, the Oilers moved within seven points of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Columbus is a team that has also had trouble stringing wins together recently. They are currently in a three-way tie for ninth in the West. Edmonton can move to within two points of this logjam with a win tonight.
The Blue Jackets have not won two games in a row since November 23-24 but did come away with two points in their last game Saturday night against Carolina. They are 6-5-2 in December.
This is the second meeting of the season between these two teams. Edmonton won 3-1 back on November 26.
Just The Facts...
LINEUP UPDATE (11:47 AM):
Word from Columbus is that Fernando Pisani is probable for tonight and Joni Pitkanen is doubtful.
OILERS TO WATCH:
Ethan Moreau played very well in his return to the Edmonton lineup on Saturday in Minnesota. He played 18:38 and had an even plus/minus rating with an assist... Moreau played on a line with Andrew Cogliano
who scored his first goal for the month of December, ending a 12-game scoreless drought. The 14:48 of ice time Cogliano played was his highest since November 22... Another player ending a lengthy scoring drought on Saturday was Jarret Stoll with his shorthanded marker. It was Stoll's first goal since November 15 - a span of 18 games. Stoll was also 63.2% in the faceoff circle. The game before, he was 80% which marked the first time all season that he was 60% or better in faceoffs for two straight games.
BLUE JACKETS TO WATCH:
Nikolai Zherdev had two goals and two assists for four points Saturday against Carolina to increase his goal total this season to 15 in 38 games. All of last season, he had 10 goals in 71 games... Columbus has one of the league's top goaltending tandems in Pascal Leclaire and Fredrik Norrena. Leclaire leads the NHL in shutouts with seven, is second in goals-against average at 1.93 and third in save percentage at .929. Norrena is 10th in GAA at 2.33... Defenceman Ron Hainsey has 20 points in 37 games and has picked up five assists in his last five games. He comes into tonight's game on a three-game scoring streak. Hainsey is nearing his career high of 34 points achieved last season in 80 games.
Edmonton – Joni Pitkanen (back) is questionable. Ales Hemsky
(knee) is doubtful. Matt Greene (ankle) is out. Raffi Torres (knee) is out; Columbus – Gilbert Brule
(tonsellitis) is questionable. Manny Malhotra (knee) is questionable. Michael Peca (concussion) is questionable. Fredrik Modin (back) is out.
Columbus has had its struggles historically with Edmonton. They are 5-16-4 all-time versus the Oilers and 2-7-3 at home... The Blue Jackets power play struggled recently going 0-for-20 for a stretch but in their last three games, they've turned that around to go 4-for-16 (25%)... Both the Oilers and Blue Jackets struggle in the third period. Columbus has allowed 37 of its 87 goals in period three while th Oilers have allowed 40 while scoring only 26 in the final frame. Both teams are also fast starters. Edmonton has scored 35 of its 91 goals in the first period while Columbus has allowed only 21 goals in the opening frame... Edmonton is 10-9 in one-goal games this season while Columbus is 5-10. The Oilers are 2-6 in games decided by three or more goals and the Blue Jackets are 10-6.
The Other Side
- The Scott Howson Report - Columbus Blue Jackets General Manager Scott Howson sits down with Jeff Rimer and reviews the beginning of the Blue Jackets 2007-2008 season. 700K
From the Fans
Odds and Ends
- New Year, new wallpaper - With the end of 2007 only hours away, it's time for a new Oilers desktop wallpaper. Follow the link to download four different variations of the January calendar for your computer. ...more
- Vote for Hemsky, Horcoff and Souray - There's only a few days left to vote for the 2008 NHL All-Star Game so there's still time for you to send your favourite Oilers to Atlanta. Be an All-Star fan and vote for Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff and Sheldon Souray. ...more
From the Wire
Although the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Edmonton Oilers are separated by only four points, they have contrasting outlooks.
To continue their push for the first playoff berth in franchise history, the Blue Jackets (17-15-6) look to overcome their struggles against the Oilers (16-19-4) when the teams meet on Monday at Nationwide Arena.
Edmonton has won the last three meetings by a combined 12-3 score, including a 3-1 home win on Nov. 26 in the only matchup this season, to improve to 17-3-2 with three ties all-time against Columbus. The Oilers, however, enter this meeting mired in a season-high five-game losing streak.
The Blue Jackets are trying to build momentum entering the new year after a 4-1 home win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday, and look to win back-to-back games for the first time since Nov. 23-24.
"That's the kind of hockey we need to play if we're going to win and keep ourselves in the mix for a playoff race," Blue Jackets goaltender Pascal Leclaire said. "We're playing with confidence and guys aren't afraid to make mistakes. Guys are backing each other up. It's a good mood right now and we just have to keep the ball rolling."
The Oilers had been struggling to score lately, but their defense disappointed in a 5-4 overtime loss at Minnesota on Saturday. They blew a 4-1 lead late in the second period.
Edmonton, which had totaled five goals over its previous four games, lost by one goal for the fourth time during this five-game slide. This is the club's longest losing streak since a six-game skid from March 24-April 5.
"We're still trying to figure out what kind of team we are," said Oilers captain Ethan Moreau said. "It's going to be imperative we find out pretty quick, because everyone knows it gets a lot tougher in the second half."
Saturday marked the first regular-season game for Moreau since Oct. 21, 2006. He missed all but seven games last season due to a dislocated shoulder, and a foot injury kept him sidelined for the first 38 games of this season.
While Edmonton hopes Moreau can provide a boost, Columbus will continue looking for one from Nikolai Zherdev. The fourth-year winger had two goals and two assists for a career-high tying four points on Saturday.
Zherdev had only a goal and two assists over his previous seven games, but is second on the team with 31 points.
"He's as good as anybody in the National Hockey League with the puck," Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said. "He makes plays very few players in the world can make and he does it at top speed."
The return of left wing Rick Nash, who leads the Blue Jackets in goals (18) and points (32), also may help their offense. Nash had missed the previous two games with a throat problem that hampered his breathing. He assisted on Zherdev's second goal to end a career-high seven-game pointless drought.
Neither Zherdev nor Nash has a point in his last four games against the Oilers.
The Oilers hope Shawn Horcoff can end a drought of his own. Horcoff, who leads Edmonton in goals (16) and points (34), has gone pointless in the last five games.
He hasn't been helped by linemate Ales Hemsky sitting out the last two games with a knee injury. It's uncertain if Hemsky will return Monday.
The Oilers had killed 18 of 19 short-handed situations over their previous five games, but the Wild went 2-for-5 on the power play on Saturday.
"We sat back and let them take their game to us, and that's the opposite thing of what you've got to do," Oilers center Kyle Brodziak said. "Really disappointing."
The Blue Jackets are 4-for-16 on the power play in their last three games after an 0-for-19 drought.