Devan Dubnyk will get the honours of trying to shut down the defending Stanley Cup champions, not to mention Sidney Crosby, tonight at Rexall Place.
Oiler fans will be excited to walk into Rexall tonight, and the only other remaining game that might match tonight’s build up will be on February 1st when the Carolina Hurricanes come to town with 30th place on the line.
Dubnyk is a fairly calm guy and was pretty calm when asked about facing Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
“I try to prepare for every game the same way. You can’t go out there and think too much about who you are playing. Right now any opportunity to get on the ice in a game situation is exciting. I have to be aware where they (Crosby and Malkin) are on the ice, but my preparation is the same if I’m playing Columbus or Pittsburgh.”
There is a lot of pressure on a goalie, but when Dubnyk or Deslauriers allows a soft goal, it’s magnified even more. Veteran goalies will get the benefit of the doubt, and that’s a reality Dubnyk is well aware of. He knows he needs to prove himself and the only way he can is by playing well.
He can’t do it by himself and if the Oilers continue to turn the puck over or miss assignments as often as they have this year, then Dubnyk’s job becomes even harder. If anything, the veterans better be ready and help a young goalie when they are facing one of, if not the best player in the game.
Tonight will be Sidney Crosby’s second visit to Rexall Place. He was here Dec 5th of 2008, and for the first 40 minutes you barely noticed him. The Oilers led 2-0 going into the third, but then Crosby took over, with three straight assists. The Pens won 4-2. Last year the Oilers lost in Pittsburgh 5-4 and Crosby had one assist.
He’ll be looking for his first career goal v. the Oilers tonight; the other teams he has yet to score against include Chicago, Anaheim, Nashville, San Jose and St. Louis.
It’s kind of scary when you think about Crosby. He said he needed to work on his faceoffs and he needed to shoot more. Now he is second in goals in the NHL with 30, and on pace to reach 50 for the first time in his career and he is only 57.9% in the dot. When he puts his mind to something, he works hard at it and improves. Coaching doesn’t make him great, his desire is what makes him great. All the young players on the Oilers should look at his work ethic and desire and ask themselves if they can match it. If not, then they need to work harder in the off-season.
With their win in Calgary last night, the Pens are now 4-8 in their last 12. They haven’t been playing very well, especially Evgeni Malkin. After seasons of 85, 106 and 113 points Malkin only has 43 in 41 games this year, but his goal totals are really down. He only has 13 goals so far, and he has gone ten games without a goal. He looks tired.
The Oilers will have some new line combinations tonight.
Penner — Horcoff — Nilsson
Cogliano — Potulny — O’Sullivan
Moreau — Gagner — Pisani
Jacques — Stortini — Stone
The defence will be the same and Dubnyk will start.
Potulny is the hottest Oiler right now and Pat Quinn has really liked Andrew Cogliano’s effort and competitive level lately so he moved them together. The fourth line could be very effective in creating energy and excitement. And with Godard, Adams and Rupp on the 4th line for Pittsburgh tonight I’d expect some energy when those two lines face off against one another.
Penguins’ analyst Bob Errey, who won a few Cups with the Pens in the ‘90s said if the Penguins lost Marc-Andre Fleury and Sidney Crosby they wouldn’t be in the playoffs either. He was referring to the Oilers loss of Khabibulin and Hemsky. Errey admitted he hasn’t watched the Oilers a lot, but he isn’t surprised they’ve struggled this much since 35 and 83 were lost for the season.
The Oilers were 10-12-3 when Hemsky got injured – they were 8-10-3 when Khabibulin went down four games earlier. Since both have been out the Oilers are 6-12-2. They probably wouldn’t be in the playoffs had Hemsky and Khabibulin stayed healthy, but it is obvious they wouldn’t be in 15th. The positive about the injuries is that the Oilers will get a higher draft pick.
Friends or foes
For years I’ve seen many Internet rumours mentioning that JDD and DD don’t like each other. I asked Dubnyk today how much he and Deslauriers will need to support one another now that Khabibulin is done for the year and they are the guys.
“There was always competition and I’ve heard rumours that we don’t get along and that certainly has never been the case. We had a good chat yesterday and I said we have to stick together now more than ever. It’s me and him. We’re here and that’s going to be it for the year. We need to be a team of two and stick together and have each other back all the time”
Later he told me that anyone who has ever played with him would know he is a very easy guy to get along with. He said both him and Jeff are a little quiet so it took some time to get to know each other, but they’ve never had anything but a healthy competitive relationship. It was interesting that he said “We’re here and that going to be it for the year.” That just solidifies that the Oilers won’t be getting a rent-a-veteran goalie, which is the smart move.
Somehow the Pens with all their talent have the second-worst PP in the league clicking along at 14.4%. There was lots of talk today that the Pens are looking at Ray Whitney in Carolina as a possible acquisition. That makes a lot of sense. He’s won a Cup, but more importantly he is very creative on the man advantage. I doubt he would cost much to pry out of Carolina.