With only six wins in their last 20 games, the Oilers have fallen six points out of the playoffs as they face the surging Detroit Red Wings tonight. The Wings have won 15 of their last 20, and they’ve outscored their opponents 80-40 in their recent hot streak. The Oilers will need their veterans, Ryan Smyth, Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky to make an appearance tonight if they hope to stay competitive against the cagey Wings.
Horcoff, Smyth and Hemsky have combined for only one goal (Hemksy) and nine assists in the last ten games. Horcoff is -7 in his last ten games, and Tom Renney clearly tried to send a message to his captain by demoting him to the 3rd line, and onto the wing, Saturday in San Jose.
The Oilers were decent in San Jose, but they have been outworked far too often in their past 20 games. Smyth and Horcoff have always been known for their work ethic more than their natural skill, and tonight Renney needs his veterans to show up against the Wings or it will be a long night. Horcoff only played 17 minutes in San Jose, the first time in 11 games he’d been under 20 minutes, and we’ll see how he responds tonight.
Smyth was playing out of his mind with 12 goals and 24 points in the first 22 games, so you expected him to slow down a bit, but he needs to contribute if the Oilers are going to stay in the race. Hemsky hasn’t looked good, but Renney revealed today that while Hemsky is healthy enough to play, he isn’t close to being 100% healthy.
I asked the head coach if he’d like to see Hemsky stay out after practice to work on his game or even just to horse around with him teammates. "He’s got a body that suggests he needs help. I’m not going to sit here and tell you what he goes in and treats, but he gets off the ice so he can be prepared tonight. He goes right to the medical room, but at the end of the day he is all in."
I’ve said for a few weeks Hemsky looks hesitant on the ice, and it is clear he isn’t healthy, so I understand why he hasn’t been skating effectively with the puck. If the Oilers are going to stay in the playoff hunt, they must be praying that Hemsky can heal to the point where he feels confident on the ice.
Ryan Whitney isn’t 100% healthy either. He told us so and Brownlee will have an indepth article on Whitney this afternoon. He still feels pain when he skates.
NO OFFENSIVE PASSENGERS
The Wings have incredible depth and they are getting offensive contributions from everyone. They have 15 players with 3 or more goals, and they have ten players with 5+ goals. The Wings dominate their opponents 5-on-5, outscoring them 68-41, (+27) 2nd best in league behind Boston’s +36 at 5-on-5. The Oilers have scored 53 and given up 51 goals at 5-on-5 this year. They are 7th in GA, but only 22nd in GF with five skaters.
Surprisingly the Oilers have had more success v. the Wings than they’ve had against the Wild or Flames recently. The Wings have way more talent than Calgary or Minnesota, but the Oilers seem to match up well against the Wings at home. I wonder if that’s because the Wings play more of a free wheeling, non-physical style. The Oilers are 6-5-1 at home against the Wings, since the lockout, with 39 GF and 40 GA.
It looks like the only change will be Lennart Petrell coming in for Darcy Hordichuk. Petrell might be feeling frisky facing the Wings, considering his only NHL fight came against Justin Abdelkader earlier this year. Seriously though, he is in to help the PK.
Hall – Nugent-Hopkins – Eberle
Smyth – Gagner – Hemsky
Horcoff – Belanger – Jones
Eager – Lander – Petrell
Smid – Gilbert
Whitney – Potter
Peckham – Petry
DRESSING ROOM RIVALRIES
While Nugent-Hopkins is having a phenomenal rookie campaign, there is one area that he is struggling in according to Theo Peckham, X-Box 2K12.
"The first game we played I scored with 10 seconds left to win. In the 2nd game he scored with 20 seconds left and won. In game three I was crushing him 5-1 early in the third, then his connection suddenly went dead. I think he quit. We’ve played five games and I’ve won four," laughed Peckham.
Nugent-Hopkins responded with, "I’d admit if you (Peckham) were a better player, but you aren’t."
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers usually are competitive against the Wings and the games are close. That will be the case tonight, but the Oilers lose 3-2.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: With all the Swedes in Detroit’s lineup I’m sure you will see a comment or two during the broadcast regarding Peter Forsberg’s comments that in 2006 the Swedes purposely lost to Slovakia to avoid meeting Canada or Russia and instead faced the Swiss. The Swedes won the Olympic Gold medal in hockey, so it was the right move, no?
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Theo Peckham has 4 goals in 130 career games. One v. Phoenix earlier this year, one against the Blues and two v. the Red Wings. Peckham has two goals in five career games against Detroit, and he’ll pick up his 3rd tonight.
Today we continue "Helping Others" and we have another great package to help those in need around the holiday season.
- Dinner for 6 at Vivo Ristorante on New Years eve for the early sitting. It will be a 7-course meal and includes two bottles of Le Volte, Toscana, IGT. The food and ambiance is spectacular.
- Pair of seats for the final 5 World Junior games at Rexall, including 3 Canada games. The seats are at centre ice, row 30. Thanks to NAITSA for donating them.
To bid you can call 780.426.8326 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Bidding starts at 2 p.m and ends at 5:45 MST.
Thanks in advance and Merry Christmas.