April 10 2013 01:11PM
At the start of the season the Oilers' goal was to be in the playoff hunt, and they are, but they need to win tonight to stay near the pack. So far, the Oilers are 0-3 in this stretch drive, and I suspect the players will be hungry to show they can win a meaningful game, not just play in them.
The first goal will be crucial tonight.
The Coyotes have been shut out in five of their last nine road games. Even Wanye doesn't get blanked that much during his final tour of the bar at two in the morning.
Lately both the Coyotes and Oilers are getting outshot. The Oilers have been outshot 256-202 in their last eight games, but they are 5-3. The Coyotes have been outshot 285-231, but they are 4-2-2. Neither trend will last, and the Oilers must take advantage of a team that lacks any serious offensive punch.
Prior to their loss in Vancouver on Monday the Coyotes had won three straight, with three different goalies registering the win. Mike Smith blanked Colorado 4-0 on Saturday, Chad Johnson beat Detroit 4-2 last Thursday and Jason LaBarbera made 39 saves to beat the Kings 3-1 on April 2nd.
Smith will get the start tonight, but due to injuries he has yet to find the consistency he had last year when he led the Coyotes to the conference final. The Oilers need to get after Smith and the Coyotes.
Ales Hemsky's foot is good enough to play, so he'll draw back in and Jones will sit. Dubnyk is 5th in SV% amongst goalies with at least 20 starts and he'll start his 32 game, good for 9th most in the NHL.
- You wonder how much the uncertainty of their future impacts the Coyotes? Dave Tippett doesn't have a contract extension, and even though Gary Bettman says, "There is more interest than ever in purchasing the Coyotes," I won't believe it until a deal is done. That uncertainty has to wear a guy down eventually, no?
- Dubnyk and Khabibulin each have a .923 SV%. The team SV% is .918 due to empty net goals and Yann Danis' 110 minutes of .881SV%. The only teams with a better SV% than the Oilers are: Ottawa, .934, Boston, .926, Chicago .922 and the Rangers with .920. Those who believe goaltending is one of the Oilers' main issues need to realize that isn't the case. Goaltending isn't the problem in Edmonton.
- The Oilers will re-evaluate Eric Belanger tomorrow and if he is healthy enough to play then Anton Lander will be sent to OKC. I doubt Belanger draws in for Smithson, but the Oilers want to have a centre around in case of emergency.
- Justin Schultz is a lock to make the all-rookie team, but he will need an excellent final 9 games to be a finalist for the Calder I suspect. In a short season, nine games is almost 19% of the season so how he finishes will play a big role in voting.
- The Oilers outshot the Ducks 11-2 in the first 11:49 on Monday, but then the Ducks had 17 consecutive shots. The Oilers next shot didn't come until 4:55 into the 2nd. They went 13+ minutes without a shot, and gave up 17. The Ducks did have two powerplays during that time, but the Oilers can't afford unproductive stretches like that if they plan on beating top teams.
DO YOU HAVE THE CHOPS?
Are you good at karaoke? We will find out who is the best on May 17th. Submit a short video of you skills and the top-12 will perform May 17th at On The Rocks. Send video to firstname.lastname@example.org. The top-12 will compete with a few special "celebrity" guests. It will a be a great night, and the winner will also perform on stage with the band after being crowned King or Queen of Karaoke. No ballads allowed. Tickets will go on sale tomorrow for this charity event.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Both teams are desperate for a win, and instead of playing it safe they play run and gun to the delight of the crowd. Oilers win 5-4.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: With last change Krueger will get even better matchups for the 4/93/14 combo and they will combine for three goals. Hall picks up three points to move into a tie for 6th place in NHL scoring.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: After nailing two NSOGDP (Flames quote and Nick Schultz goal) on the four game road trip, it will be difficult to accurately predict the unexpected...However....
After watching N. Schultz light up the Ducks on Monday Ryan Smyth is inspired. Smyth hasn't scored in 23 games, the 2nd longest goal-scoring drought in his career -- he went 25-games between Oct 20th-Dec 15th, 1998--, but he ends that tonight. Smyth has more points vs. Phoenix than any other franchise, 59, and he picks up his 60th point and 26th goal vs. Phoenix. It will be a patented wrap around.
RECENTLY BY JASON GREGOR
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- GDB 39.0: JUST WIN
- GDB 37.0: DOWN TO THE DIRTY DOZEN
- OILERS: GHOST RIDING THE WHIP
- GDB 36.0: FEASTER OF FAMINE
- MIKE BABCOCK: IF YOU COACH, BE PREPARED
- NO JOKE...IT IS APRIL AND THE OILERS ARE IN THE MIX
- SMID SIGNS FOUR-YEAR DEAL
- GDB 34.0: AN OILERS WINNING STREAK
- GDB 33.0: STAYING IN THE RACE