October 26 2010 01:56PM
It started with Pat Price, then Mike Forbes, Don Nachbaur, Todd Strueby, Tom Gorrence, Mike Krushelnyski, Ken Hammond, Craig Redmond, Peter Eriksson, Reijo Ruotsalainen, Max Middendorf, Shaun Van Allen, David Haas, David Shaw, Dan Currie, Shjon Podein, Todd Marchant, Mikko Luoma, Brad Winchester, Erik Cole and now Kurtis Foster have all doned the #26 jersey.
But it is a different 26 that is haunting the Oilers tonight.
Hall of Famer, Jim Matheson, tweeted yesterday that the Oilers haven't won a road game in regulation since Dec 11th, 2009 in St. Louis. Since then they have won two games in a shootout, lost 23 in regulation and one in a shootout. That is an ugly stretch, but shows that this group hasn't been competitive or energetic enough to win on the road.
The Oilers will have a few changes when they take on the surging Calgary Flames for the third time in their first seven games. You would think the Oilers will be fired up to play the Flaming C, considering it will be their third meeting in 18 days and they are on a four-game losing streak, but their lack of energy and determination since opening-night is alarming. So far the Oilers haven't shown the ability to compete away from Rexall Place. The Oilers aren't the biggest team, but they need to at least throw the odd body check.
We'll see if that changes tonight and how the new pairings on the blueline line up.
Tom Gilbert and Ryan Whitney will be re-united, Kurtis Foster will play with Theo Peckham and Ladislav Smid and Jason Strudwick will play together. Jim Vandermeer has struggled and will take a seat in the pressbox. I think the Oilers really missed Peckham's abrasive style v. the Sharks so he should add some grit to the lineup. His left hand is still a bit tender, but if called upon he said he'd have no problem dropping the flippers, but I don't see him doing it unless it is really necessary.
Colin Fraser will be a game time decision. If he can't play look for Ryan Jones to move up on the 3rd line and either Andrew Cogliano or Gilbert Brule will start as the 4th line centre. I would guess that if Renney shortens his bench that Cogliano and Brule would team up with Taylor Hall. Steve MacIntyre will play tonight, so if Fraser draws in look for Zack Stortini or Jones to take a seat alongside Vandermeer.
PAGING DUSTIN PENNER
Despite having three goals in six games, Dustin Penner has looked more like he did in his first two seasons as an Oiler than the 30-30 season he has last year. Maybe only playing two games a week has hurt the big guy from getting into a groove, but he has to be a leader on this team.
Last year he proved that he can be a dominating presence, but we've yet to see that game emerge this season. Penner has to start moving his feet more, fend off defenders with his body and drive to the net. The good news is with three goals so far he shouldn't be lacking in confidence, and if he can get back to the player he was last year the Oilers might end their 26-game-road-regulation-drought.
BOURQUE V. THE OILERS
Rene Bourque has six goals in his past four games, while the entire Oiler team has only potted eight during their four-game losing streak. Bourque is red-hot, and considering he's tallied the six goals after suffering a concussion the Oilers need to be award of him tonight.
Bourque had six goals, including a hat-trick on Dec 28th, in six games v. the Oilers last year. He has become the new Oiler killer in Calgary and I'll be curious to see which line or D pairing Renney tries to put on the ice against Bourque tonight.
Do you think Renney/Ralph Krueger would play Whitney/Gilbert v. Bourque's line and not Iginla's?
Alex Tanguay-Matt Stajan-Jarome Iginla
Niklas Hagman-Olli Jokinen-Rene Bourque
Curtis Glencross-Mikael Backlund-Brendan Morrison
Craig Conroy-Stefan Meyer-Tim Jackman
The way Bourque is playing you might see it. Smid and Peckham are more physical D-men, and sometimes if you get in Iginla's face he gets more concerned about playing physical than scoring.
I'm curious what route the coaching staff will take.