The Oilers and the Blues will miss the playoffs for the 5th time in the last six years, and both squads are filled with young players that management feels can lead them to the playoffs in the near future. Since the lockout the Blues have finished 30th, 22nd, 27th, 15th, 15th (missed playoffs, but had more points than MONT and PHI who ended up in east final) and are currently 23rd, while the Oilers have finished 14th, 25th, 19th, 21st, 30th and are a lock to finish 30th again. Each team had three first-round picks in 2007, and both of them are hoping that eventually their "rebuilds" will turn into consistent playoff apperarances.
The Blues seem closer to making a playoff appearance than the Oilers at the moment, but one or two good/bad moves or an injury to a key player and things could look much different next season. The Blues traded what would have been their 3rd top-ten pick since the lockout this summer, while the Oilers will select in the top-ten for the fourth time since their Cup run, so both of these teams need to start showing some improvement soon.
Injuries have hurt the Oilers again this year, while the Blues’ playoff hopes took a beating when David Perron and TJ Oshie went down. Perron has only played ten games, while Oshie only dressed for 42. On paper the Blues look like they could make a run for the playoffs next year with a top-six group that includes size, speed and skill with Perron, Oshie, David Backer, Chris Stewart, Patrick Berglund and Andy McDonald. Alex Pietrangelo has been unbelievable for the Blues this season and along with Kevin Stattenkirk, Ian Cole and Barrett Jackman they have the makings off a solid D-core with Jaroslav Halak in goal.
JF Jacques returns to the lineup and to make room for him the Oilers sent Alex Giroux back to OKC. Giroux was on emergency recall so the Oilers had to send either Giroux, Chris Vande Velde or Ryan O’Marra down. They chose Giroux because he is a winger, is not going to be part of their future and, most importantly, he will help OKC in their quest for the playoffs more than Vande Velde or O’Marra would.
Jason Strudwick will move back to the blueline in place of the injured Kurtis Foster, and Colin Fraser will also draw back in for the banged up Oilers. Nikolai Khabibulin gets the start between the pipes.
- The Ducks tweeted an interesting stat about Teemu Selanne after he tied last night’s game in the final ten seconds, "Selanne’s last 3 goals and 4 of his last 8 have come in last 2:07 of regulation and all tied the game.". The Finnish Flash has always been clutch and now he has 629 career goals, 14th most in NHL history, and he will score more than 70 points as a 40-year-old. He is a guaranteed Hall of Famer and should be a lock to get in on his first ballot. The rumour is he will retire after this season, and if that is the case I’m going to cheer for the Ducks to make the playoffs just so I can see him play a few more games. The best thing about Selanne is that he is a better person than he is a player. He is one the most inviting and insightful players I’ve ever had the pleasure of interviewing.
- When you watch the Oiler game tonight let me know if you see what I see. The guy in the green shirt with the soul patch goatee sitting on the couch in the Sports Select commerical, does he not look identical to Phil Kessel? It’s freaky.
- So far the 2008 draft has all been about Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty. Tyler Myers has been just one rung below them, but I think it won’t be long before people will be adding Pietrangelo to the conversation. Pietrangelo has 39 points this year , while Doughty has 37 and Myers has 35. Due to the NHL’s quirky rookie rules, Pietrangelo isn’t considered a rookie, but if he was he’d be in the running for the Calder. Watch him closely tonight, he is damn good.
- Mark Recchi infuriated Habsnation when he said the Habs tried to embellish the severity of Max Pacioretty’s concussion so Zdeno Chara would be suspended . I listened to the entire Recchi interview on 98.5 Sports Hub, and he felt like the Habs tried to make the concussion seem worse than it was. Recchi stated it was obvious Pacioretty was really hurt due the broken vertebrea, but noted that Pacioretty did a lot to garner attention afterwards. He set up a twitter account, tweeted from the movies and did numerous media appearances, until his agent got him to stop. It is a touchy subject, but I see some merit In Recchi’s comments.
- The Oilers haven’t had three 20-goal scorers in a season since 2008, and they haven’t had four since the Cup run in 2006 when Ryan Smyth (36), Raffi Torres (27) while Shawn Horcoff and Jarret Stoll had 22. Jordan Eberle needs three goals to become the 3rd Oiler with 20, and Ryan Jones needs four. Do you think they’ll both make it? I see Eberle getting there, but see Jones getting stuck at 19. If Eberle reaches 20 it will be only the 2nd time the Oilers have had two rookies with 20+goals in the same season. Jari Kurri and Glenn Anderson had 32 and 30 respectively in 1981.
- Wednesday night TV is awesome with Modern Family, Criminal Minds and now Criminal Minds: Suspect Behaviour. Modern Family is the best sitcom on TV right now in my opinion. I had a few people tell me and tweet me that I should watch Mr. Sunshine with Matt Perry. I watched it last night and felt like I was watching Chandler Bing in a different show. It was only one episode, so I’ll give it another go, but my first impression was that it was okay at best.
- I’m sure I won’t be alone tonight channel surfing between the Oiler game and March Madness. I love the energy, tempo and game-seven atmosphere in every game. I’ve got Florida, Duke, and San Diego in my bracket. I had Pitt, so I’m hoping for Butler because no one else has them in our pool. You don’t have to be a big basketball fan to enjoy these games.
- I’ve like Jeff Petry’s game since he was recalled from OKC. He played like this for the first ten games the first time he was recalled and then hit a dry patch like most rookies. He is poised with the puck, makes good decisions, but I hope he starts to shoot more. The Oilers don’t need another D-man who won’t shoot the puck. They need one who is willing to shoot it and is capable of hitting the net.
- How many Oilers do you think will play in the World Championships? Ladislav Smid, Tom Gilbert, Magnus Paajarvi and Jordan Eberle seem the most likely. Linus Omark might also go, but do you see any other Oilers who will get the call? Devan Dubnyk went as a 3rd goalie last year, so he might have an outside shot again.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Fresh off an exact pick, I’ll close my eyes again and my palm tells me the Oilers will lose their 8th straight, 4-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Blues embarrassed the Oilers 5-0 at Rexall Place a weeks ago, and Tom Renney ripped his club after that game. Expect a much better effort tonight, and look for JF Jacques to drop the gloves with Crombeen or Janssens. Jacques didn’t fight the last time these teams met, and he got a subtle message that when you are losing 3-0 at home, he needs to find a dance partner. I don’t think he’ll need an invite tonight.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: After two games at forward didn’t produce any goals, Jason Strudwick moves back to the blueline. The pressure is on for Strudwick, Ladislav Smid and Liam Reddox to get a goal this season, and tonight the Ginja Ninja will break his goose egg. Edmonton’s version of Rudy will speed down the left side, cut past a Blues defender and fire a shot on Halak, the rebound will ricochet off of Reddox’s pants and into the back of the net. Within minutes "Ginja Ninja" will be trending on twitter after his goal.