Preview: Oilers vs. Blue Jackets
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS (30-25-6) at
EDMONTON OILERS (30-25-5)
Start Time: 7:08 p.m. MST
Television: Rogers Sportsnet West (HD)
Radio: 630 CHED, Oilers Radio Network and online at edmontonoilers.com.
Today's Game Notes | Oilers/Blue Jackets Head-to-Head | Stats Comparison
LINE-UP UPDATES: Fernando Pisani is expected to make his return to the line-up, slotting in on the third line with Andrew Cogliano and Ethan Moreau... Liam Reddox, Kyle Brodziak, and Zack Stortini make up the fourth line... Dwayne Roloson gets the start in net.
|Ales Hemsky creates a scoring opportunity against the Blue Jackets (photo: Andy Devlin/EOHC)
by Marc Ciampa & Jessica McPhee | edmontonoilers.com
|THE ESSENTIALS FOR TONIGHT
The Edmonton Oilers continue their four-game homestand tonight with another critical game when they collide with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Blue Jackets have never made the playoffs in their eight seasons in the NHL but this year they find themselves currently in a playoff position - sixth place, to be exact - with 66 points.
Columbus has lost each of its last two games but prior to that they had a stretch where they went 6-0-1. That stretch included wins over San Jose and Detroit as the Blue Jackets make a push for the playoffs.They lost 4-1 in Calgary on Tuesday to open their three-game Western Canadian road swing.
The Oilers are nipping right at the heels of the Blue Jackets with 65 points. They are part of a four-team logjam with the seventh, eighth, ninth and 10th place teams all holding that same point total. However, Edmonton does hold a game in hand on Columbus and a win tonight would vault the Oilers into that sixth spot - one point behind fifth-place Vancouver.
Edmonton had a three-game winless streak snapped with a 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday.
This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between these two teams. Edmonton has won twice while Columbus has won once.
Just The Facts...
OILERS TO WATCH:
The Oilers are still very much entrenched in the tight Western Conference playoff battle with a big win over Tampa Bay on Tuesday night. The team’s Alternate Captain, Sheldon Souray
collected two goals on Tuesday along with 16 shots fired towards the net. Souray has collected points in each of his last five games, totaling six and has 17-23-40 for the season. Another blueliner who’s seen a lot of ice time in recent games is Tom Gilbert
. Having collected four assists in his last five games, with a solid +4 this season, he’s helped his team earn important wins in light of a defenceman shortage due to injuries. Sophomore, Andrew Cogliano
also collected two points on Tuesday night’s game and has 14-17-31 this season. Left winger Erik Cole is back in action after a short pointless steak, with three in his last four games. Only two minutes into Tuesday’s game, Cole accelerated down the right side leaving everyone in his wake as he gave his team the early lead which they did not relinquish. Dwayne Roloson has started 16 straight games and has 21 wins this season. With a save percentage of .917, Roloson has been strong between the pipes this season.
BLUE JACKETS TO WATCH:
The Blue Jackets were all over sports news last week as they picked up speed in the Western Conference playoff battle. Moving into sixth place after a number of crucial wins, the Blue Jackets will have some positive momentum coming into this game. Columbus’ All-Star Captain Rick Nash is a force to be reckoned with having collected 57 points this season. Nash is the team’s offensive leader with an impressive nine points in his last six games. Left winger Kristian Huselius has contributed to the team’s wins over the last six games with as many points and a game winning goal at Carolina on February 14th. Huselius, who is playing his first season in Columbus, has 18-25-43. Canadian born Manny Malhotra’s season started slowly, but has picked up with five points in his last four games and a solid +6. Rookie goaltender Steve Mason has been exceptional for most of the season. A potential candidate for the Jennings and Calder trophies, Mason has the second lowest goals against average in the league this season at 2.19.
Edmonton—Denis Grebeshkov (high ankle sprain) is out. Lubomir Visnovsky (torn labrum) is out; Fernando Pisani (ankle) is probable. Columbus—Derick Brassard is out. Pascal Leclaire is out. Ole-Kristian Tollefsen is out. Rostislav Klesla is doubtful. Fredrik Modin is doubtful. Jason Chimera is day-to-day.
Historically the Oilers have played very well against the Blue Jackets, prior to this season the Oilers have won 19 of 28 contests and collected 43 points. This season, these two teams have met three times, with two of those games going to the Oilers. The Oilers will be looking for a second win in the third game of a four game homestand.
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From the Wire (AP)
Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Steve Mason has been hesitant to take a break during a tight playoff race. He might not be too eager for a matchup with the Edmonton Oilers, though.
The Blue Jackets, whose star rookie is showing signs of wearing down, look to avoid another poor defensive effort against the Oilers on Thursday night in a matchup for playoff position in the Western Conference.
With Columbus (30-25-6) seeking the first postseason appearance in team history, Mason has started seven straight games following a bout with mononucleosis. The Blue Jackets have 66 points and are in sixth place in the West, one point ahead of an Edmonton team in a four-way tie for seventh.
"Every game is important right now," Oilers winger Erik Cole said. "It doesn't matter who you are playing. It's that time of year where you can't be squandering points."
Columbus enters this contest having lost two straight after picking up at least one point in seven in a row (6-0-1). Mason, who has a 2.19 goals-against average and seven shutouts, has given up eight goals in his last two contests - three in a 4-1 loss to Calgary on Tuesday night.
Mason also has struggled in two games versus the Oilers (30-25-5), going 1-1-0 with a 4.02 GAA. However, Pascal Leclaire fared much worse in Columbus' only other meeting with Edmonton this season, allowing every Oilers goal and stopping just 19 shots in a 7-2 Blue Jackets loss Nov. 18.
Leclaire will be out at least another six weeks after having ankle surgery, so Wade Dubielewicz is Columbus' only option if it decides to give Mason a breather. Dubielewicz, though, has played in just two games this season.
Regardless of who is in net for the Blue Jackets, the Oilers will be looking for another boost on offense as they try for their fifth straight home win in the series.
Edmonton had scored a total of six goals in three straight losses before beating Tampa Bay 5-3 on Tuesday night as Sheldon Souray had two goals.
The Oilers were coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to provincial rival Calgary on Saturday night, when the Flames tied the game with 1:05 left in regulation.
"This was huge for us to get the momentum moving forward," Oilers center Sam Gagner said after Tuesday's victory. "Especially after the last three games. We had a couple mistakes but we also did a lot of things right. ... It was a character win. Hopefully we can build on it."
Cole, Jason Strudwick and Andrew Cogliano also scored for Edmonton.
Cogliano scored his 14th goal but just his second in the last 22 games. The second-year center has five goals and three assists in seven games against the Blue Jackets.
Columbus center R.J. Umberger, meanwhile, has five goals in his last six games and has set a career high with 21 this season. However, he's been limited to one goal and no assists in four career contests versus Edmonton.