On November 1st, the Stars and Oilers were tied with Chicago for first place in the western conference with 16 points. The Stars were 8-3, while the Oilers were 7-2-2. The Stars won their next three games and were sitting pretty at 11-3, before the wheels fell off. Now they find themselves on a five-game losing streak. The Oilers and Stars are once again tied in points, 22, but they are now tied for 8th place with St.Louis.
How quickly things can change in the western conference.
The biggest difference for both teams has been their team defence and goals against.
In the Stars’ first 11 games they surrendered 23 goals, a 2.09 GAA, but in the 8 since they’ve allowed 31, 3.87 GAA. They are giving up almost twice as many goals as they were early in the year. To make matters worse for the Stars, in their five-game losing streak they’ve scored a measly four goals and have been shutout twice.
The Oilers, specifically their goaltending, allowed a paltry 18 goals, 1.63 GAA, in their first 11 games, but in their last 8 they’ve allowed 27, 3.37 GAA. No one should have expected them to keep their early-season GAA stats, but they need to be better defensively than they have been recently.
The good news for the Oilers is they are coming off their biggest offensive outburst in over a decade, and their top-two lines should have loads of confidence when they take on the Stars.
The Oilers made scoring, passing and executing look easy on Saturday v. the Hawks, but there is no guarantee that carries over to tonight, however, guys like Hall, Eberle, RNH, Hemsky, Gilbert and Petry should feel more confident and comfortable with the puck.
Renney looked like a genius with his new line combinations on Saturday, and he won’t make any moves on the top-three lines. He is switching up his 4th line, however, as Ben Eager and Magnus Paajarvi will take a seat and Lennart Petrell and Darcy Hordichuk will skate with Eric Belanger
Smyth – Nugent-Hopkins – Eberle
Hall – Gagner – Hemsky
Jones – Horcoff – Lander
Hordichuk – Belanger – Petrell
Smid – Gilbert
Peckham – Petry
Chorney – Teubert
With back-to-back games tonight and tomorrow and then Friday afternoon in Minny and Saturday in Colorado look for Dubnyk and Khabibulin to split this four-game trip down the middle. This is Khabibulin’s 5th straight start, while Dubnyk has yet to start two straight. Interesting.
With Paajarvi going back to the pressbox, I don’t see why the Oilers just don’t send him to the minors. He needs to play. Let him regain some offensive confidence and play 18-20 minutes a night in OKC. Sitting him in the pressbox, or playing him on the 4th line won’t develop him more than playing in the AHL.
I doubt Souray will go out looking to cheap shot anyone. He’ll play his usual hard, tough and mean game, but I don’t see him going out of his way to crush anyone. If Steve Tambellini was dressed that would be a different story. Then I’d pay money to see what would happen because Souray’s beefs were with management, not his teammates. He’snever played with over half of the Oilers current roster, so I’d expect him to play the Oilers just as hard as he does every team.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are flying high, while the Stars can’t score. The Oilers don’t win very often in Dallas, only one win in their last eight visits, but they will start the trip with a 3-1 victory. Ladislav Smid picks up his first point of the season with an assist on Smyth’s team-leading 12th goal of the season.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Early in the first period, Souray will unleash a slapper that will sail high and wide. Whichever Oiler D-men are on the ice, will be thankful they didn’t get hit in the head.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: During the first TV timeout RNH will be sitting on the bench and he’ll be in awe of the Stars Ice Girls. Coming out of the timeout, he’ll suddenly have an extra burst of energy and he’ll go end-to-end and pick up his 4th road point of the season. After the game he and Taylor Hall will disagree on which Ice Girl is the hottest.