March 11 2014 11:58AM
Viktor Fasth stopped 19 of 21 shots in regulation and three in the shotout to win his NHL debut 3-2 over Nashville on January 26th, 2013. He went on to win his first eight NHL games with a dazzling .934sv% and a 1.87 GAA.
During his next twenty starts, 15 last year and 5 this year, he's compiled a 9-8-3 record with a .901sv% and a 2.45 GAA. Tonight in Minnesota, he'll get his first start as an Oiler and his first NHL start since November 18th, 2013.
He is excited about the opportunity to compete for the starting job in Edmonton, but he'll need to be very good down the stretch to match Ben Scrivens.
Fasth should have ample opportunity to impress the coaching staff and his teammates. The Oilers have been out shot in 11 of their past 12 games by an average of 36.4 to 25.3. The only game the Oilers weren't out shot was in a 3-0 loss to Minnesota with both teams firing 21 shots.
Fasth will need to play like he did last January and February if he hopes to play as much as Scrivens. Scrivens has been exceptional in ten starts with the Oilers. He is 5-5 with a 2.30 GAA and a sparkling .938sv%.
Gagner's line played very well vs. LA. Hall has four points in his last two games and Gagner is starting to show some offensive life. They will need to be very good again if the Oilers hope to start the road trip with a win.
The RNH line wasn't great vs. LA and individually they've struggled to score goals recently. Eberle has 1 goal and 3 points in his last 9 games. RNH has 0 goals and 3 points in his last 11 games, while Yakupov has 1 goal and 6 points in his last 10 games. Yakupov has at least produced some points, but these three need to score more consistently.
Oscar Klefbom makes his NHL debut. The 19th overall pick in 2011 has had shoulder issues for a few years. He only played 11 games last season, and he's dressed for 45 of 60 games in OKC this year. Hall and Nugent-Hopkins returned from shoulder surgery and haven't had any issues, but Klefbom is still having minor shoulder problems. The Oilers are hoping he can stay healthy, but you wonder if one more surgery would help him stay healthy?
Regardless of his shoulder problems, he adds much needed size, strength and mobility on the backend. If he stays healthy, I'd play him every game down the stretch. I don't need to see more of Philip Larsen to realize he isn't a long term answer.
- Ales Hemsky's comments yesterday in Ottawa had the Nation fired up. The Oilers management and players should take his comments to heart rather than brush them off. There are clearly some issues within the organization, and instead of saying Hemsky was never a leader, so he shouldn't be commenting on it, they must take hard look in the mirror and change some things.
The young players need to be more competitive, and management needs to surround them with some veterans. No team wins with a top-six comprised of all young players. David Perron is the veteran of the group, but he's only been here for 65 games. They need a veteran skilled forward to help teach, challenge and mentor the kids, and of course they need to improve the backend. Neither acquisition will be easy, but that has to be Craig MacTavish main focus this summer.
- I've said for years that rotating the 4th line or 6/7 D-men wasn't going to solve anything, and it hasn't. Hemsky was bang on with that assessment. I wish Hemsky would have shared these thoughts when he was here, and maybe he did privately, but considering how Sheldon Souray was treated after he voiced his concerns, I can see why Hemsky said nothing. Granted, Hemsky's comments weren't a direct attack on any person specifically, but I wonder if he feared being ostracized if he spoke out?
- Scary situation in Dallas last night with Rich Peverley. Early reports suggest he is doing okay, but no one knows if he will play hockey again. There is a push to have every hockey rink in Alberta equipped with an AED (Automated External Defibrillator) in the coming years. We will discuss this on my show today at 4 p.m. The AEDs are very easy to use. I took a CPR course two weeks ago where we got to use one, and they are idiot proof (I figured out to use it), so any parent or spectator could use it safely and properly in case of an emergency. They save lives.
- No radical rule changes have emerged from the annual GM meetings, but there is an appetite to lower the amount of SO games. I'd love to see 3-on-3 after five minutes of 4-on-4, but the easiest change could be for them to switch ends. When teams have the long change we see more goals.
NHL teams have scored 1492 goals in the first period, 1844 in the second period and 1792 in the third. The difference between the 2nd and 3rd period isn't much, but clearly most teams feel their way into games in the first. Switching ends in the SO might increase scoring a bit, but I'd like to see them do that and play four minutes of 3-on-3.
- I'd love to see the NHL adapt a new point system that rewards teams for winning in regulation, three points, but right now the league, sadly, has no interest in it.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers' struggles in Minnesota continue. They are 2-14-3 in their last 19 visits to the Excel Energy Centre, and they pick up their 15th loss in their last 20 trips by a 3-1 score.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers get out shot. The good news is the Wild don't generate many shots so it will only be about 25-22.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Klebom levels Dany Heatley with a solid check in the second period and instantly becomes a fan favourite.
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