GDB XXV: Coping with Kopitar

If the Oilers can keep Anze Kopitar from lighting the lamp they will have a good chance the win. Kopitar leads the NHL in scoring, with 14 goals and 33 points, but when he scores a goal the King’s chance of winning is exceptional.

The Kings are 47-23-8 when Kopitar scores, including 8-2 this season. Kopitar is big, strong, highly skilled and he skates exceptionally well, but it will be interesting to see how he plays without Ryan Smyth.

Smyth’s style complimented Kopitar and he opened up a lot of ice for the Slovenian, but his new left-winger Alexander Frolov doesn’t play the same way. Frolov has more natural skill than Smyth, but he is very inconsistent.

Terry Murray benched Frolov for one game after eight unproductive games, and Frolov responded with eight points in his next six, and now he has one goal in his last eight games. He has played two games with Kopitar and has a goal, but it will be interesting to see how productive Kopitar is with Frolov instead of Smyth.

Talking with the media and management of the Kings, Smyth is responsible for a lot of Kopitar’s success. Oiler fans are well aware of Smyth’s consistent work ethic, and that, combined with Kopitar’s improved conditioning has Kopitar off to such a great start.

Assignment

I asked Pat Quinn on which defensemen he plans on playing against the Kings top line of Kopitar, Frolov and Justin Williams, and it sounds like he will rotate between Steve Staios/Sheldon Souray and Ladislav Smid/Lubomir Visnovsky.

Quinn is very comfortable with the play of Smid and he was happy with how Smid matched up against Rick Nash earlier this year. While Staios and Souray are a more physical pairing and should be able to negate the size of that line, Quinn and Tom Renney will give Smid and Visnovsky some time against them as well.

Coming off a 4-0 shutout win, there will be no lineup changes and no new lines. For one of the few times this season we will see the identical lineup in consecutive games.

Penner — Gagner — Hemsky
Jacques — Brule — Horcoff
Moreau — Potulny — Cogliano
Reddox — O’Sullivan — Stortini

Stone to return

Ryan Stone was put through the paces for an extra 20 minutes after practice today, to see where he is at. When I spoke to him after practice, he was a bit frustrated with his recovery. He is still feeling pain in his knee, and he is only doing skating drills at this point. They won’t put him in one-on-one drills until the pain subsides. He ruled himself out for this weekend, and said he is looking at possibly the final three games of the upcoming six-game road trip as a possible return date.

Robert Nilsson skated and he will have another neurological test this afternoon, and if he passes that then he should be cleared to play for Friday. He said he is feeling better and his headaches have disappeared. Even if he is cleared, I think it will be hard for him to get a spot in the lineup.

Marc Pouliot skated alongside Stone and Nilsson after practice, and it looks like he is about two weeks away. If Potulny and Reddox continue to play well it will be very interesting to see what Steve Tambellini does with his roster in two weeks, when Stone, Nilsson and Pouliot are ready to go.

The Oilers are being very cautious with Nikolai Khabibulin’s back, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be ready for this weekend’s back-to-back games v. the Sharks and the Canucks. Devan Dubnyk (Doob-nick) is itching to play and I’m curious if the Oilers will give him a game or two.

Dubnyk will have to clear waivers next season, and it is doubtful that he would get through, so will the Oilers give him a game or two? And what is the point of only a few games? If he plays well, is that enough proof that they could move Deslauriers, and if DD struggles in two games is that reason enough to give up on him? I think he will get a game or two, but I don’t think those games, regardless of how he plays, will be the deciding factor in what they do with him this summer.

  • Tha Legion

    Unless Reddox/Putulny absolutly implode, I can't see Nilsson seeing Oiler ice again.

    @ Gregor

    When Stone is back, who goes down frist: Potulny or Reddox?

    • HansBaurMesserschmittWatson

      The way Potulny and Reddox have played, I think you have to wonder if it won't be Nilsson to be the next Oiler waived. Given how bad he's been this year, I can't imagine anyone is in a hurry to take him and his 2nd liner contract on, but then I didn't think anyone would bother taking a flyer on Rob Schremp either.

      I figure #12 has zero trade value right now, so dangle him on the waiver wire, and then ship him down to Springfield if no one wants him.

      Potulny and Reddox have both been far superior players for us in their call-ups, and Nilsson just hasn't given Quinn any reason to want to keep playing him.

  • Tha Legion

    Jason, did you mention on your show a few days ago about a sports trip to chicago in april to see hawks/bulls game. Do you have a link for more information on that?

  • Oil Kings 'n' Pretty Things

    I would expect to see Dubnyk play in either one of the back-to-backs. It makes sense to give him a good look, his AHL numbers are solid annd hell if both he and JDD prove to be consistent and reliable it would potentially allow the team to trade away Khabi at the deadline to fill the roster holes or free up much needed cap space.
    I know it's much too early for that kind of talk but those are my initial thoughts.

  • @Jason Gregor:

    What's your feeling as to which direction the organization is leaning on Dubnyk/Deslauriers? They've invested a ton in the latter the past few years, but Dubnyk's been better down the line. Any idea if they're thinking about reprising the three-headed monster?

    • Jason Gregor

      They learned the first time that a three-headed monster is not the right idea. Right now they don't really know. If Deslauriers plays 25 games this year and is steady, he'd probably have more trade value, since he would have at least proven he could stop NHL shooters.

      I don't see any way that both are in the organization next season, unless there is a serious injury to one between now and then.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        Actually they didn't learn the first time, it took them two times to learn this.

        What would JDD or DD garner via trade anyways?

        Thank god I don't have to figure this one out.

  • HansBaurMesserschmittWatson

    if we are not in the play-off hunt come trade deadline, i can see khabi getting moved.
    to a strong east team that could use him or the detroit redwings.