It’s not a game with meaning in a good way, but it is a meaningful game all the same. The Edmonton Oilers and Montreal Canadiens will face off tonight in a battle of the second-worst: a regulation win for the Oilers would move them out of 29th and into a tie for 28th, and with a game in hand on the Canadiens too.
Naturally, it is the duty of all Oilers fans to oppose such a victory. The Canadiens are really the Oilers most significant threat for draft position – everyone else is either too far back (Minnesota, Toronto) to catch the Oilers or have played too well of late (Carolina, Long Island) to be a realistic threat to climb the lottery rankings.
Out-and-out tanking might be a little much, but there’s no reason Tom Renney can’t reunite the Barker/Potter pairing tonight, is there?
Devan Dubnyk’s last game against the San Jose Sharks didn’t start so well but he came through late and ended up stopping 28 of 30 shots, along with another three in the shootout, en route to a first star selection. Given the fact that he’s playing for a long-term spot on the team and he hasn’t put to rest consistency and soft goal concerns, that might suggest to most people that he should be the starter against Montreal.
Tom Renney isn’t one of those who feels that way. Instead, Nikolai Khabibulin will try for his second win since Christmas tonight. Montreal is countering with Peter Budaj, who will start just his 10th game of the season and whose last win came nearly two months ago.
In other lineup notes, Ben Eager will be scratched with the flu, meaning that Darcy Hordichuk makes his triumphant return to the lineup.
Game Day Prediction: What could be an ugly affair turns out to be a surprisingly entertaining contest; both goalies play well and the teams swap scoring chances. In the end, the Oilers come away with a 3-2 victory in overtime.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: Darcy Hordichuk won’t play in the third period but will still close in on the six-minute mark in total ice-time, his highest total in six games.
Not So Obvious Game Day Prediction: Eric Belanger will pick up his fourth goal of the season and fourth goal against the Canadiens post-lockout, prompting Pierre Gauthier to walk over to Tambellini’s press box and ask what it would take to get Belanger at the NHL Draft. Tambellini will craft his most brilliant trade yet as Oilers GM, but sadly it will never come to fruition as Gauthier’s gone by draft day.