October 14 2013 10:34AM
Yes, it’s far too early in the season to be saying that any of these individual contests are must-win games. It isn’t too early to say the Oilers need to find a way to get some wins. Either fortunately or unfortunately, the situation is much the same in Washington, a team that with a 1-4-0 record is actually a point back of Edmonton.
Once again, Nail Yakupov finds himself on the outs, as per the Oilers’ official Twitter account.
Yakupov will not play tonight. "I really liked our group of forwards last game. We'll stick with the same group." @dallaseakins— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) October 14, 2013
LaBarbera between the pipes tonight vs. Washington— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) October 14, 2013
I haven’t seen official word on the defence but assume it remains the same as well, giving the Oilers the following lines for tonight’s game:
- 1st Line: Taylor Hall – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Ales Hemsky
- 2nd Line: Ryan Smyth – Mark Arcobello – Jordan Eberle
- 3rd Line: David Perron – Boyd Gordon – Jesse Joensuu
- 4th Line: Luke Gazdic – Will Acton – Mike Brown
- 1st Pairing: Ladislav Smid – Jeff Petry
- 2nd Pairing: Andrew Ference – Nick Schultz
- 3rd Pairing: Anton Belov – Justin Schultz
- Goal: Jason LaBarbera
After the game the third line had against Toronto, I had thought Jesse Joensuu might find his way out of the lineup (or better still, on to the fourth line with Mike Brown the scratch) but evidently the head coach feels either that Yakupov on the bench gives the Oilers the best chance to win or that the young player will benefit from another night off. Neither of those seem like particularly sound beliefs to me, but maybe there’s something else going on here.
There’s a great chance here for Jason LaBarbera to take the starting job and run with it. Career-wise, he’s had very good numbers in the backup role for a few seasons now, but was never going to get another opportunity at the starting job unless fortune intervened; with Devan Dubnyk’s struggles it has. Mathieu Garon’s career was in a very similar spot when he came to Edmonton; he ended up providing pretty good goaltending during the Oilers’ late run in 2007-08.
Another opportunity here is the one being afforded to Mark Arcobello. It’s difficult to see where he fits on the Oilers’ roster moving forward: the fourth line has been handed to big men, Arcobello’s skillset is replicated in the top-nine and Sam Gagner will take back his spot at some point. Arcobello has until Gagner gets back to make it impossible for the Oilers to send him down – or at the very least, to make it impossible that he clears waivers. So far, so good.
Finally, if MacTavish does make a big splash, I expect it to be on defence rather than in goal. With the possible exception of Jeff Petry, this has been a suspect group from day one and while all six guys are NHL players every night some of them seem to be in roles they aren’t able to handle.
Game day prediction: The Oilers lose a tight one in overtime, falling 2-1 to Washington.
Obvious game day prediction: The fourth line plays less than six minutes and gets out-shot and out-chanced badly thanks to one shift where they’re caught against Alexander Ovechkin.
Not-so-obvious game day prediction: Just like the game in Toronto, this is a back-and-forth affair, but it turns into a goaltending duel. Both teams have struggled between the pipes but the combined save percentage of both goalies on the night ends up in the 0.960 range.