I’m not sure where the story started that the Oilers were terrible in matinee games. It’s something I’ve believed the last few years, probably because I’d heard it somewhere else and never bothered to look into it, and possibly because there were a few terrible beat-downs among the losses suffered by the Oilers in those early games. The Rangers beat Edmonton 8-2 last year, and Detroit defeated them 8-3 a few years prior in early games, after all.
As it happens, though, the Oilers record in early games really isn’t that bad.
By my count, since the NHL lockout the Oilers have a 12-13-4 record in games played before 2:00 PM (0.966 points percentage); given that they’re 192-220-50 in other contests (0.939 points percentage) I feel safe declaring that the Oilers are no worse in the early hours of the day than they are when they play at night.
That’s good or bad news, depending on one’s personal take, for their game in Colorado at 1:00 PM this afternoon. On the bright side, the Oilers can play the role of spoiler, helping to limit Colorado’s playoff chances and encourage a winning atmosphere even when the games don’t matter. On the other hand, an Oilers’ loss would put another nail in the coffin of Calgary’s playoff hopes, and help keep their cushion over Montreal for 29th and the second spot in the NHL Draft lottery this summer.
As far as Tom Renney’s concerned, gaining credibility and respect with a win are far more important than any worries about draft position:
“We have to respect [Colorado] enough to make sure that we come out on our toes and not stand and see what kind of game Colorado’s going to play. We know what they’re going to do; they need the points. We need to make sure that we gain credibility and respect by playing them hard and getting those points away from them.”
In the head-to-head series this season, Sam Gagner is the Oilers leading scorer with seven points in five games, while Ryan Jones isn’t far behind – he has two goals, six points and a team-best plus-5 rating against Colorado this season. As per the Oilers’ Twitter feed, Ben Eager remains inactive with a virus, while Potter is hurt but travelled with the team to Denver. At the other end of the rink, the young duo of Ryan O’Reilly (5GP – 1G – 6A – &PTS, +4) and Gabriel Landeskog (5GP – 2G – 1A – 3PTS, +5) have been lethal for the Avs against the Oilers. Matt Duchene, who has had two points in three games against Edmonton, will not dress for the Avs thanks to an ankle injury.
Thanks to Gene Principe, we have the Oilers expected lines today:
- Hall – Nugent-Hopkins – Eberle
- Omark – Gagner – Hemsky
- Smyth – Horcoff – Jones
- Petrell – Belanger – Hordichuk
- Smid – Petry
- Whitney – Potter
- Sutton – Schultz
Devan Dubnyk is expected to get the start for the Oilers; Semyon Varlamov will be in net for Colorado.
Update via Bob Stauffer: Dubnyk’s day-to-day with a groin tweak; Khabibulin will start.
Game Day Prediction: The Oilers come away with a 4-1 win, doing their share to help bury the ‘terrible early in the day’ storyline.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: Gabriel Landeskog will score the goal for Colorado, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will respond with two points for the Oilers. The folks doing the Avalanche broadcast will point out what a good Rookie of the Year candidate Landeskog is; the folks on the Oilers broadcast will make the argument for Nugent-Hopkins.
Not So Obvious Game Day Prediction: With just two goals and four assists in his last 29 games, Ryan Jones has felt a little bit of heat; he’ll continue his strong play against the Avs by picking up a goal and an assist.