Nikolai Khabibulin will try to end his 12-game losing streak tonight against the Blue Jackets, who are fittingly the last team he registered a win against back on December 16th. If Khabibulin can show as much resolve and strength as our young cheerleading prodigy above, then the Oilers might have a shot, but something tells me that even a rare 5:00 p.m. appearance on CBC won’t help the Oilers.
I’ll give this team credit; they rarely quite. They were down 4-1 in Columbus last night, but rather than get blown out, once again they kept the game close. The Oilers aren’t that good. They make key mistakes at the wrong time, aren’t consistently physical, they can’t win faceoffs, they don’t score a lot, but they rarely quit.
The Oilers have scored first in only 19 of their 51 games, and in the 32 games where they’ve given up the first goal they are 5-22-5. They rarely pack it in early, but it’s even more rare for them to surrender the first goal and come back and win. Their last win, Jan 25th v. Phoenix they from behind and won it in the final 20 seconds on a Dustin Penner goal.
They beat Tampa on Dec 10th in the "Omark" shootout, came back to beat the Habs on Dec 1st in OT on a Penner breakaway, gave up an early goal in Ottawa, but scored three times in the 3rd to win 4-1 on Nov 29th and they scored two goals 14 seconds apart in the final frame v. the Hawks on Nov 7th to beat them 2-1.
The Blue Jackets are 16-5-2 when they score first, and with a shaky Khabibulin in the pipes the Oilers need to draw first blood tonight if they want to win. They’ll get some help with Dustin Penner back in the lineup and he’ll play with Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky. Sam Gagner will stay with Magnus Paajarvi and Linus Omark while Taylor Hall, Andrew Cogliano and Jordan Eberle will get another look. Barring injuries look for Tom Renney to leave these three lines intact for the next while.
After playing Steve MacIntyre a whopping 25 seconds last night, I can’t see Renney scratching Ryan Jones or Liam Reddox to keep MacIntyre in the lineup. It is really hard to intimidate or hit anyone when you get less than half a minute of icetime.
Either play big Mac some minutes or don’t dress him.
I am the only one who would like to see Theo Peckham on the PP ahead of Ladislav Smid? Peckham shoots more often and gets it through to the net. He has three goals this season while Smid has one goal in his last 238 games. Why not play Teddy Peckman on the 2nd unit?
IS IT IN THE CARDS?
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are 14th in goals scored on the road, and if they score three or more tonight they would be in the top-ten. They play better on the road than at home, and if they can beat the Jackets are Rexall then why not repeat that on the road. It’s a great theory, but I don’t see it happening. Khabibulin extends his losing streak to 13 games with an exciting 4-3 loss.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Blue Jackets score first on the PP in the first ten minutes. Peckham will have a strong first period and Don Cherry will heap loads of praise on him, while purposely butchering his name in Coaches Corner.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: After watching David Backes deliver a cheap crosscheck into the back of Hall last night, Sam Gagner will be on the prowl tonight. Gagner is the only top-nine forward who will drop the mitts and stand up for himself. SamWise will take exception to an Antoine Vermette elbow and those two will engage in an entertaining featherweight tilt.
After the fight the camera will pan to Linus Omark on the bench. He’ll be sitting beside Jim Vandermeer asking him for tips on how to throw a punch. Later in the 3rd Omark will drop the gloves with fellow bantamweight Kris Russell. The two will shadow box for a bit, and then Omark will do a 360 spinarama, and land a shot right on Russell’s beak. Russell will be more stunned than hurt, and the two will wrestle to the ice. After the game the Blue Jackets will say it was disrespectful. Of course in two weeks Jared Boll will try the same move and score a KO victory over Cam Janssen.