It’s not very often the Edmonton Oilers find themselves looking down at the Detroit Red Wings in Western Conference standings in November, as is the situation going into tonight’s game at Joe Louis Arena. That’s a perspective that could change in a hurry.
The Oilers arrived in the Motor City with 20 points from a 9-4-2 record after a 6-3 loss to the Bruins on Thursday, five points clear of Detroit, 7-5-1, but the Red Wings are starting to roll after a 5-2 win over Colorado and a 5-0 waxing of the Anaheim Ducks.
While the Oilers are off to a much better start than anybody anticipated despite the setback in Boston, leaving them at 2-2 on this road trip, they have just one win to show for their last six visits to Detroit, a stretch in which they’ve been outscored 26-14 by the Red Wings. The Oilers are 20-30-3-3 in Detroit overall. Tough crowd.
As everybody expected, coach Tom Renney will tweak the line-up he skated in Boston against the Red Wings. The changes won’t, however, result in as much shuffling of the forward lines as we discussed here in a previous item.
— Up front, Ben Eager comes out and Magnus Paajarvi draws back in from the press box after being a healthy scratch. Paajarvi is expected to start the game on the fourth line.
— On the back end, Andy Sutton returns to the mix from a five-game suspension for Cam Barker, who suffered an ankle injury against the Bruins. Barker has returned to Edmonton to be examined.
— In goal, Nikolai Khabibulin, who boasts a 7-0-2 record with a 0.98 GAA and .964 saves percentage, makes his 10th appearance.
OF NOTE . . .
The Oilers might catch a break as Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg has a "middle-body" injury and will be a game-time decision after leaving the morning skate early . . . Johan Franzen has been hot for the Red Wings with six points (4-2-6) in his last two games . . . Ryan Smyth scored two goals in the loss to the Bruins and has eight points in his last five games (6-2-8) . . . Khabibulin career record against Detroit is 16-24-6.
LEST WE FORGET
Take a moment today in your own way to recognize the men and women who have given their lives serving our country in the military. There is no greater sacrifice.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Red Wings continue to roll and make it three wins in a row with a 3-2 decision, sending the Oilers to Chicago needing a win to finish .500 on the road trip.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Kid Line of Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Eberle gets another lesson in guile, gamesmanship and experience from 41-year-old Nicklas Lidstrom and the rest of the Detroit defence. Lidstrom, who made his NHL debut with the Red Wings in 1991, two months before Hall was born, is off to another ridiculous start. He has scored 6-5-11 in 13 games.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The pre-game meal at The Joe is disrupted by a shouting match between Edmonton Sun beat writer Rob Tychkowski and Fox TV colour analyst Mickey Redmond. Redmond, still upset by disparaging remarks Tychkowski made about the city of Detroit in a game preview piece last season, tries to score brownie points with management by calling Tychkowski a hack.
Tychkowski fires back by suggesting Redmond’s two 50-goal seasons were a fluke and mocks Mickey’s hair transplant by placing a slice of Little Caesar’s pepperoni pizza on his head in the food line-up. Order is restored when Oiler radio man Bob Stauffer steps between the two and silences a crowd that is egging the pair on to fight by telling the story about the summer he worked as a tree-planter for the 974th time.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.