The Oilers are winless in four NW division games thus far, and tonight they will try to change that against the current three-time NW division champion, Vancouver Canucks. If the Oilers have any hope of making the playoffs they need to start beating teams within their division.
The Oilers have lost all four games by a goal, and they’ve given up third period leads in three of them, and they scored first in Minnesota. The Oilers haven’t been good v. their NW rivals for a few years. Last year they were 6-13-5, in 2010 they were 8-14-2, they were 8-11-1 in 2009, in 2008 they were 13-16-3, in 2007 they were 11-20-1 and in 2006 they were 15-15-2.
Until the Oilers have a winning record, or at least .500, within their division it will be tough to make the playoffs. They’ve played well for long stretches v. the NW this year, but they’ve been unable to hold on in the third.
For the first time this season the Oilers will go with the exact same lineup as the previous game. Khabibulin starts in goal, while Linus Omark and Theo Peckham are the healthy scratches.
The Canucks will welcome former Panther, David Booth, to the lineup. Booth will play on the "American Express" line (that’s what they are called in Vancouver) with Ryan Kesler and Chris Higgins, while the Sedins and Burrows round out their top six.
- I wonder how long before Ryan Whitney is on the #1 PP unit. They like having a right-handed shot on the point, but you have to think they will look at putting him back there very soon. I also don’t get why they have two left-handed shots on the 2nd unit. Wouldn’t Gilbert and Whitney work better than Whitney and Barker? You might see Lander take Paajarvi’s spot for a few shifts on the 2nd PP tonight. He rotated in there with Paajarvi at practice today.
- Gilbert has improved his shot and it’s because of a new grip. He worked with a shooting consultant this summer and it is obvious it is working. "It is something I was never really taught. You just want to go out there and slap the puck as hard as you can, but there are so many fundamentals about it, and this summer really helped me. I have more confidence in my shot now and I’m trying to shoot more. It was just a little bit of a grip change, and now I get more of a toe and blade snap and they has given me more velocity. It took me two weeks to remember to change my grip before shooting. Now I’m used to it, and I’m looking forward to working on it more this summer."
- How many amateur coaches know how to shoot properly? Based on Gilbert’s response I’m guessing most of us don’t. I will have an interview coming up with a shooting coach in the next bit, and I’m interested to hear how the grip can improve a player’s shot.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: We’ll see another exciting game between these two, and we’ll see more than three goals, but I don’t see the Oilers outscoring the Canucks. Oilers lose 3-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: If the first speakers at city hall are any indication, by the time this game is over the new rink will be responsible for all the murders in the city, violence downtown and why the sidewalks in your neighbourhood aren’t fixed. I’m all for people voicing their displeasure, but if the first speakers represent those who oppose the rink, then I’m all for it. I felt for the councillors and mayor having to sit through that. Of course I’m off to watch it first hand right now, because I like entertainment.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Ladislav Smid will challenge Burrows to a tilt early in the first. This stems from last year’s comments when Burrows said he liked watching Avery drop/sucker Smid. Burrows wanted no part of Smid earlier this year, but he’ll surprise us tonight and square of with Smid. It will be an entertaining tilt with both guys throwing, but not landing, bombs.