The Oilers last played in Winnipeg on Dec 15th, 1995 and got crushed 9-4. Joaquin Gage took the loss and played the entire games stopping 35 of 44 shots. The Oilers finished 21st out of 26 teams that year, despite Doug Weight scoring a career-best 104 points. They missed the playoffs for the 4th straight season in 1995/1996, but then they made it to the postseason five consecutive years after that.
The Oilers and their fans are hoping this is also the last year of their post-season drought, and they will look to an old face to try and re-kindle the Oilers/Jets rivalry tonight.
Nikolai Khabibulin was a sophomore with the Jets in 1995/1996, and it was his first year as a starter. He went 26-20-3 with a .908 SV% and 3.13 GAA. Fast forward 16 years and Khabibulin will be back starting his first game in Winnipeg since losing game six of the conference quarterfinals v. Detroit.
Khabibulin will start, and look for Cam Barker and Ryan Jones to draw back in. Tom Gilbert didn’t make the trip due to a sore back, so Barker will take his place. Theo Peckham is still listed on the IR, so he won’t be dressing. Of course, if Steve Tambellini surprises me and finds a team willing to take Barker, then they would activate Peckham.
After sitting out three straight games Jones will likely draw back in. He’s struggled in 2012, but he still has 13 goals, good for 6th on the team, and I think he got the message that he needs to bring his lunch bucket and hard hat and just work hard.
I’d guess the lines will look something like this, but a trade, which would be surprising, would change things.
Hall – Nugent-Hopkins – Hemsky
Smyth – Gagner – Eberle
Paajarvi – Horcoff – Eager
Jones – Belanger – Petrell
Smid – Petry
Whitney – Potter
Barker – Sutton
***Edit…*** Dubnyk will start so Khabibulin either is getting traded or isn’t healthy.
In case you missed it over the weekend, the Oilers finally sent Anton Lander to OKC. He’ll have a week of practice with the Barons and then play three road games in three nights on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Lander should have been in OKC much sooner, but better late than never.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Jets are desperate and need wins, and I suspect their team will be excited due to a trade. I fully expect the Jets to make a move, even a small one, to try and improve their chances of making the playoffs. The Oilers losing streak in WPG will extend to three with a 3-2 loss.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hall, Nugent-Hopkins and Hemsky will be the Oilers best line like they were v. Phoenix and score both goals.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: No one will be concerned about the game until after 2 o’clock, hoping that Tambellini does some sort of move. At previous deadlines an Oiler trade was announced after 1 p.m., so fans will wait until 2 p.m. just to be sure. I’d be surprised if Khabibulin gets dealt, and even more shocked if Barker gets a new address.