Exciting Last Place hockey continues this morning with the Oilers wrapping up a five-game road trip with a stop at MSG to take on the Rangers. A win would give the Oilers five points on the trip, and "technically" a .500 record, so you’d hope they come out with the same vigor they had in New Jersey on Friday night. One thing you can be sure of is that Derek Boogaard and Steve MacIntyre will drop the gloves today.
After the Oilers home loss to the Canucks on November 2nd, I was walking back from the Canucks room to the media room and I ran into MacIntryre. He hadn’t practiced for a few days and I thought it was due to the flu, but it turned out he had tweaked his back doing some "light" 275 pound deadlifts.
I asked him how he felt and if he’d be ready for the five game road trip. "I’ll be fine. I have to be. I have a date in New York," he said with a smile. I’m not the brightest guy, but it didn’t take me long to figure out what he meant. MacIntyre wants to test himself against the biggest punchers in the league, and they don’t come much bigger than Boogaard; especially when the stage is MSG.
I can’t imagine what it would feel like for MacIntyre and Boogaard as they prepare for today’s game. Boogaard has watched the tape of Raitis Ivanans getting KO’ed by MacIntyre. The excitement, fear and trepidation that will be running through SmacIntyre will be flowing just as quickly through the Boogieman.
Before Don King and Bob Arum came along, MSG was known as the boxing mecca. Some of the greatest and most controversial fights have been staged in MSG. The epic battle and surprise ending of Ken Buchanan and Roberto Duran was fought there.
And so was The Fight of The Century, between Ali and Frazier. –That’s what the first fight between the two was dubbed, and their third and final fight was the Thrilla in Manilla–.
I’m not saying today’s tilt will go down in history as one of the greatest, but it will be one of the most anticipated in the NHL this year. Considering the rest of the Oiler team has shown little signs of grit or toughness in the past three games it might spark them to play with some semblance of energy and emotion.
LINEUPS…DOES IT REALLY MATTER
There was no morning skate this morning, and I wrote this last night prior to heading out to a family function, so I don’t know who is starting in goal for the Oilers. If I’m Tom Renney, I play Devan Dubnyk again after a solid outing in New Jersey, and then go with Nikolai Khabibulin at home v. Chicago, who he has already beaten twice this season.
Line combination don’t mean much at this juncture. There are lots of guys who need to play better, so I expect Renney to continue trying new combinations with the hope a few of them will find some chemistry.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are 5-3-4-2 in New York since winning the Cup in 1990, with those four ties actually being ties. They won 3-2 in a shootout in their last visit to MSG with a strong performance from Jeff Deslauriers. Dubnyk matches that performance this afternoon and the Oilers pick up a surprising 3-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers broadcast will feature snippets from Boys on the Bus, specifically the Jari Kurri scene when he walks off the bus and looks around with that weird look of awe, bewilderment and confusion on his face. They will compare Kurri’s reaction to this year’s crop of kids when they visited Time Square.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS PREDICTION: After the anticipated superheavyweight bout occurs, and it will be a decent tilt, Theo Peckham and Brandon Prust steal the show with a light-heavyweight slobberknocker that sees Peckham win on the basis that his stache looks exactly like the older Julius in Remember the Titans at the funeral of Gerry Bertier.