February 02 2013 10:05AM
The Oilers aren't Stanley Cup contenders yet, but if they want to be a playoff contender this afternoon is a game they need to win. The Oilers have to beat the teams below them in the standings, or ones they will be battling with for the final few playoff berths, and Colorado is one of those teams.
Their powerplay dismantled the Avalanche Monday night in Edmonton, going 4-for-6, and after picking up three of a possible four points in Phoenix and San Jose, the Oilers have an excellent opportunity to make this a very successful road trip today.
This is a game they should win.
The Avs are without Ryan O'Reilly, Steve Downie and Gabriel Landeskog, who was put on IR yesterday with a concussion. Those are three of their top-seven forwards, so the Oilers need to take advantage of an injured team.
The Oilers have more skill than Colorado and their goalie is playing much better. Devan Dubnyk has been very good this year, and great in his last three games. Ralph Krueger would be foolish to sit him this afternoon in favour of Nikolai Khabibulin.
Henrk Lundqvist, 7, Jimmy Howard, 7, Jonathan Quick, 6, and Mikka Kiprusoff, 5, are the only other goalies who have started every game thus far. Dubnyk is young, in a groove and he doesn't waste a lot of energy with his style of play. I don't see why Krueger wouldn't play him today, Monday night v. Vancouver, Wednesday v. Dallas and then enjoy two days off before playing in Detroit on Saturday, February 9th. He could play Nikolai Khabibulin v. Columbus on the 10th.
The Oilers need wins, especially against a team like Colorado and Dubnyk should be able to start 11 consecutive games, without getting fatigued, especially when he is playing this well.
Shawn Horcoff skated yesterday and he will be a game time decision. If he plays I suspect Anton Lander sits down. Cody Mcleod and Patrick Bordeleau took a few healthy runs at the Oilers on Monday, and Krueger might want to have Hordichuk on the bench just in case.
UPDATE...Horcoff will not play. He still isn't feeling right after the Doan hit.
Krueger should stick with the same six defenders. Fistric played well, and Whitney's overall game has improved this past week.
Let Dubnyk play.
- I wonder if Oiler fans relish that Calgary is in 30th place this morning. Of course you do. The only good thing about the Flames sucking is that maybe in a few years both teams will be good and the Battle of Alberta will be exciting again.
- Speaking of the Battle of Alberta I'll be calling the game between the Edmonton Rush and Calgary Roughnecks tonight on Sportsnet One at 7 p.m. (no-so-subtle plug).
- Taylor Hall has 9 points during his career-high 7 game point streak. His previous best was 5 games, February 21st to 29th, 2012 when he accumulated 7 points.
- Sam Gagner has a 7-game point streak, 8 points. His career high is 9 games. He tallied 12 points from February 4th to 24th as a rookie in 2008.
- Colorado is 26th on the PK, 74.4% and 29th on the PP, 9.5%, while the Oilers are 4th on the PP, 31.4%, and 6th on the PK at 85.3%. The Oilers have a huge advantage on special teams and need to capitalize on it.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers win a game they need and should win with a strong 4-2 performance. Dubnyk is solid again, and Jordan Eberle pots a pair.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Today is the anniversary of Sam Gagner's out-of-body experience. He tallied 8 points v. the Chicago Blackhawsk last year, and during the intro Sportsnet will play a highlight package of his record-tying night. Gene will tie in the 8-point night with Gagner's career totals of 31 points in 30 games v. the Avs and say his confidence is A Mile High right now.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Ryan Smyth scores his first of the season on a one-timer. Instantly the blogosphere goes crazy trying to find out if that was his first-career one-timer. After the goal you will see Smyth talking to Yakupov on the bench. "Sick shot Mr. Smyth. I didn't know someone could one-time a puck with a canoe paddle," says Yakupov.
Smyth smiles and replies, "I don't care about the shot, what did you think of my celly? Knee drag on the ice, with two fist pumps. Old school." "Not bad, when I score my next one-timer I'll honour that and add my own Russian twist. By the way do you think that guy they call "Plums" will call you out for that?" "Plums...(laughs) you're a good kid," says Smitty as he hopes over the boards for his next shift.