January 03 2017 02:01PM
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The Oilers skate to Columbus looking to hand the Blue Jackets their first loss since November 26th. The Jackets have won 15 straight and they've outscored their opponents 59-26 during this incredible run. Their 3-1 victory over the Oilers on December 13th in Edmonton was the seventh of the streak, and the Oilers will try to avoid becoming the second team to lose twice during Columbus' dominant six weeks.
Arizona lost 3-2 in a shootout on December 3rd, when Mike Smith made 58 saves, and then lost 4-1 two days later in Columbus.
The Blue Jackets streak began on November 29th over Tampa Bay, then they defeated Colorado, Arizona (2), Detroit, New York Islanders, Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh, Montreal, Boston, Winnipeg and Minnesota. They ended the Wild's 12-game winning streak on Saturday, and Columbus knows they only need two wins to tie the 1993 Pittsburgh Penguins record of 17 consecutive wins.
The Oilers are excited about the chance to play spoiler. I think we can safely say this is the most anticipated Oilers/Blue Jackets game in history. They have never met in the playoffs, and they've never played each other with a playoff spot on the line late in the season. They don't have a heated rivalry, but the Blue Jackets want the record, and the Oilers would love to gain some notoriety by being the team to end it.
It is amazing how things change when you are competitive. The Oilers sit in 10th place in the NHL, while the Blue Jackets are first. They were 29th and 27th last year. There is excitement in both dressing rooms now, not to mention some new found confidence, and tonight's tilt will have a unique feel to it.
Columbus fans are loving their team more than ever. The place will be electric tonight. It will be the loudest building many of the young Oilers have ever played in. These are the types of games players live for, fans want to watch and media want to cover.
I'm expecting a very entertaining game.
Andrej Sekera draws back in and Eric Gryba will come out. Brandon Davidson will play with Matt Benning, while Sekera will slide in beside Kris Russell.
The Jackets are getting production from every line. Saad has 17 points in his last 17 games. Scott Hartnell and Sam Gagner are on the "fourth line" and they've combined for 23 goals and 50 points.
Lineups courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com.
- The Oilers still have a better road record, 10-5-5, than home 9-7-2, and much of that has to do with the play of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. McDavid leads the NHL with 27 road points, while Draisaitl is third with 21. Milan Lucic is 18th with 16 road points. The Oilers will need those three going tonight to have any hope of derailing Columbus.
- The Oilers have to be leery of Saad at even strength. He leads the NHL with 31 EV points. He only has one point on the PP, despite the Jackets having the league's best. Twenty of Hartnell's 22 points have come at EV as well.
- The Jackets are 13-of-49 (26.5%) on the PP during their winning streak, and remain in first in the NHL at 27.4%. Their first unit does most of the damage. Nick Foligno (15), Sam Gagner (13), Cam Atkinson (17), Zach Werenski (14) and Alex Wennberg (16) have combined for 75 PP points. The rest of the team has a total of nine points.
The Oilers have to be disciplined, but when they do go on the PK, their first unit killers have to be on their toes. Just try and survive the first minute and hope you get to the second unit.
The Blue Jackets' first PP unit has been on for 468 PP minutes and they've combined for 25 PP goals and 75 PP points. Their second unit and rest of the team has played 420 PP minutes and they have three goals and nine points. It's amazing how good their first unit is.
WHAT THEY'RE SAYING...
Tonight, Columbus goes for #16 in a row. Unlike a certain other #16, let’s hope the Jackets come ready to play tonight. Lining up on the other side of center ice will be phenom / wunderkid / possible hockey Jesus Connor McDavid. McDavid leads the Oilers in every scoring category, captains the club, and leads the National Hockey League in points registered on the season. Safe to say, he’s pretty good.
Columbus comes into this game ... well, by now you know. They’ve won 15 straight, were perfect in the month of December, and lead the NHL at the start of 2017. Sergei Bobrovsky has regained his Vezina form (even if the NHL somehow cannot recognize it, which is beyond words baffling), Cam Atkinson is playing like a superstar in the NHL, and Torts has changed the culture in the locker room completely.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: This sets up like a trap game for the Blue Jackets -- they just defeated the Wild, ending their 12-game winning streak. But I love to see records broken, so I'll go with a 3-2 Blue Jackets victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: CBJ first PP unit scores a PP goal.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Russell scores his first goal of the season. He hasn't scored a home goal since February 4th, 2015. His previous seven goals have all come on the road.
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