March 14 2012 11:46AM
Taylor Hall must have a love-hate relationship when it comes to the Columbus Blue Jackets. He has 2-5-7 in four career games v. the Jackets, however he also has his only career fight, v. Derek Dorsett, that resulted in him missing the final 17 games last season, and earlier this year Corey Potter stepped on his head during warmup in Columbus.
Luckily for Hall, and Oiler fans, he has bounced back from both freak/fluke injuries, and he'll be one of the few reason to bother watching tonight's battle of basement dwellers.
I truly hope that is the final year we will have to preview a game involving the Oilers and the term cellar-dwellars. I'm sick of writing about it, and I'm sure you are tired of reading/hearing it. No one likes covering a loser, and I know fans are getting sick of cheering for one.
Tonight could spell the end of any dream of a third consecutive 1st overall pick for the Oilers. A loss would give the Blue Jackets a 10-point lead over the Oilers in the race for 30th, but unless you are a masochist I'd assume you'd rather see a win than watch the Oilers lose to the only team below them in the standings.
STRUGGLES ON THE HOME FRONT
The Oil have lost five straight at home, and eight of their past nine, after going 14-7-3 in their first 24 home games. They can't score at Rexall Place, 16 goals in 9 games, and they haven't worked hard enough to draw any penalties. I know PPs are down across the league and the refs have let a lot go lately, but when the Oilers are skating they draw penalties.
In their last 14 games they've only had 26 PP chances (1.8 PP/game), but in their first 55 games they had 204 chances (3.7PP/game). There has been a big drop in PP chances league wide, but the Oilers dip has been much worse. In those 14 games they've had 26 PP chances to 38 PK chances, while in the previous 55 games they were almost dead even at 204 PP chances to 208 PK situations.
They've had some calls go against them lately, but they've faced the 9th lowest amount of PK chances all year, so you can't say they've been getting screwed over that bad by the officials. They need to move their feet and force the opposition to skate with them or draw penalties.
Ben Eager had to be helped off the ice during practice yesterday after suffering more back spasms. He's out tonight. The Oilers have recalled Teemu Hartikainen and he'll likely play, and I wonder if we'll see him get a shot with Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle at some point?
Tom Renney juggled the lines at practice yesterday, and they were the same today.
Jones - RNH - Eberle
Hall - Gagner - Hemsky
Smyth - Horcoff - Omark
Hartikainen/Hordichuk - Belanger - Petrell
I do wonder if Jones will be on a short leash with Hartikainen being recalled, and in fact, I won't be surprised if Hartikainen starts the game with 93 and 14. Hartikainen has being playing very well in OKC according to Renney, and he said he'll give him a good opportunity to play. The Oilers desperately need his size, but the one thing he needs to work on is his first few steps. He's big and powerful, but he needs to improve his quickness in his first few strides. When he does that he could be a real handful for opposing defenders.
Smid - Petry
Whitney - Schultz
Peckham - Potter
Theo Peckham draws back in and Andy Sutton moves upstairs.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are 16-4-1 at home v. the Jackets, and rather than drag the fans through another race for worst, they win 5-3 and end any talk of a 3rd straight 30th place finish.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Ales Hemsky tallies two points. Hemsky has 36 points in 27 games v. the Blue Jackets. He isn't the only Oiler who lights them up. Hall has 7 points in 4 games, Ryan Smyth has 43 points in 40 games, and Columbus is the only team that Ladislav Smid has scored two goals against.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: A late start, a battle between the 29th and 30th place team, yet many of you can't look away. You'll watch because you've become immune to the pain of watching a losing team. You still will cheer for goals, yell at the TV during giveaways, dumb decisions or weak calls. You will be torn though at 10 p.m. when Modern Family comes on. Will you watch the lovely Claire and Gloria or the trainwreck known as the Jackets and the Oilers. If you couldn't use PVR I wonder what you'll do at 10 o'clock?
- I spoke with Ryan Smyth today and he told me he has indeed had talks with the Oilers and is confident he'll have a new deal. He didn't get into specifics, but I made a few calls and it sounds like a two-year deal is what they will agree to. Basically they are negotiating the dollars at this point. I get the sense that both sides will agree to a two-year deal.
Steven Stamkos scored his 50th goal of the season last night, and he joined some pretty elite company in doing so.
- He's only the 7th player in NHL history to have two 50-goal seasons before turning 23. He joins Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, Joe Nieuwendyk, Pavel Bure and Alex Ovechkin.
- Stamkos has a whopping 40 EV goals so far. Malkin is 2nd in the league in goals with 38 total.
- Only 4 players have scored 40 EV goals in the last 15 years. Stamkos, Oveckin (43 in 2008), Bure (45 in 2000) and Temmu Selanne (41 in 1998).
- Stamkos has 40 EV goals, the Kings entire team has 101.
- He is only the 43rd player in NHL history with two 50-goal seasons.
- He is half way to joining a very elite group of snipers with at least four 50-goal seasons. Only 14 players tallied 50 goals four times: Gretzky and Bossy (9), Lemieux and Marcel Dionne (6), Bure, Steve Yzerman, Bobby Hull, Brett Hull, Guy Lafleur and Phil Esposito (5) and Ovechkin, Jari Kurri, Michel Goulet and Tim Kerr (4).
- Stamkos has to be a finalist for the Hart. Goal scoring across the league is down, yet he's still lighting it up. The hardest thing to do in the NHL is score goals, and he's got 12 more than every other player. Does any goalie or player have a 24% better SV% or GAA than everyone else. No. Too bad Stamkos plays in Tampa or everyone would be talking about what a great year he is having. 50 goals today is equal to 69 goals in the 80s and early 90s. He's having one of the best goal-scoring seasons of all-time and should be recognized for it.
Do you wanna ride in the MS Bike Tour on June 9th and 10th? I have teamed up with United Cycle and formed TEAM GREGOR for this year's tour. We are going to make it a fun-filled two days and we'll have some kick-ass team uniforms and some cool swag for our team members.
If you are interested riding in our team email firstname.lastname@example.org. You will need to raise a minimum of $3,000 to join our team. My goal is to raise $100,000 this year, and I've already locked up over $20,000.
If you want to donate to the cause you can here. Thanks for your support and I look forward to having you join our team.