Fresh off a gutsy 4-3 win in Chicago, you’d think the Oilers would have had a fun flight to Buffalo, but injuries to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Tom Gilbert most likely dampened the energy on the flight. Nugent-Hopkins lost his balance and fell awkwardly into the boards injuring his left shoulder, while Gilbert was rocked into the end boards on a dangerous/dumb hit by Daniel Carcillo.
I like players who play the game hard and tough, but Carcillo’s hit was uncalled for, and he’ll likely be suspended by Brendan Shanahan. The suspension won’t help the Oilers, with Gilbert out for an undetermined amount of time, and they’ll be in tough tonight against the underachieving Sabres.
If it wasn’t for bad luck the Oilers wouldn’t have any when it comes to injuries. This organization has had its fair share of strange, freakish and unlucky injuries the past few years. Ethan Moreau on the basketball court, Fernando Pisani’s sudden colitis, Matt Greene’s pirouette, Sam Gagner’s cut wrist while sitting on bench, Ryan Whitney catching a rut, Hall hurting his knee in a takedown and then Nugent-Hopkins last night.
The only silver lining for some of those injuries is that it allowed the Oilers to grab Hall and Nugent-Hopkins, but that can’t keep happening or the Oilers will once again follow in the footsteps of their former arch-rival the Islanders. The Oilers grabbed the Cup from their grasp 28 years ago, but they don’t want to become the next franchise that just keeps losing.
GREEN AND TEUBERT COME UP
Colten Teubert getting recalled in place of the injured Gilbert wasn’t a surprise, but I’m sure most were shocked to hear Green was coming with him and not Magnus Paajarvi or Lennart Petrell. I actually like the move for a few reasons.
- Bringing up Paajarvi would have meant either he or Teemu Hartikainen would be on the 4th line, and that makes no sense. The young players need to play, whether it is in Edmonton or OKC.
- I thought Petrell did exactly what was asked of him up here in Edmonton, but who knows maybe he has more offence in his game, so let him play in OKC in their top-nine or six and see if he can possibly become an NHL 3rd liner. He would add some much needed size to the Oilers top-nine, and if Nugent-Hopkins is only out for a game or two, then jerking Petrell back and forth for a few days isn’t very productive.
- Point one only makes sense if they put Anton Lander as the 3rd line. He got promoted for yesterday’s game, and I don’t see why an injury, especially to a centre, should see him get demoted back down to the 4th line. Josh Green will likely play the middle, so why not keep Lander there. The only other option is having Eager/Green/Hartikainen together, because Green and Hartikainen played together in OKC, and yesterday Eager and Hartikainen had chemistry on a few shifts. We’ll see.
This summer new owner, Terry Pegula, opened up his wallet and signed numerous free agents to big ticket contracts. Sabres fans were excited to finally see their team spend some money, and many predicted they’d be one of the front runners in the East.
Fast forward to today and Sabres fans might be one of the few fanbases more annoyed than Oiler fans. The Oilers gave you a glimmer of hope in October, but then reality set in, meanwhile in Buffalo they have yet to show any signs of being a contending team.
Buffalo sits 11th in the East at 17-17-4, but they aren’t improving. They’re 2-6-2 in their last ten, Ryan Miller’s play has been below average, Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr their two UFA D-men are both -11, Ville Leino has three goals and ten points to show for his +$4 million/year salary and Tyler Myers hasn’t played since November 19th.
The Sabres are second to the Ducks as the biggest underchievers of the 2011/2012 season, and I’m not sure they will turn it around in the second half. Luckily for them, they are only five points out of a playoff spot, but they need to wake up ASAP if they plan on being a playoff team.
The Oilers have only played in Buffalo twice in the past nine years, losing both games by scores of 2-1, and 3-1, but they shutout out the Sabres in the two games prior to that 4-0 and 3-0. They are 13-11-7-1 all-time in Buffalo.
The Oilers have played seven back-to-back sets prior to tonight, and they’ve gone 5-2 in the first game, and 2-5 in the second one. The Oilers have swept both games once, Oct 27th and 28th, and they’ve only been swept once in Boston and Detroit on Nov 10th and 11th.
They’ll need a very solid game to sweep the Hawks and the struggling Sabres.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Big win last night with depleted blueline, but that D-corps is too young and inexperienced to win consecutive games. Sabres slip by 4-3.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Today’s comments will be filled with a debate over how Josh Green’s recall is a step backwards for the rebuild. Let the fun begin.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: A Sabres fans will chime in during the comments and rant about everything wrong with the Sabres, from their owner to their too-long-behind-the-bench coach, to their underachieving and overpaid UFAs and Oiler fans will feel a bit better. It will be a rare feel-good day in the Nation.
*****The Oilers got into Buffalo at 3 a.m. EST, so likely they won’t skate this morning. We’ll find out the lines later today, and maybe not until game time.