Really, what could be more appropriate on April Fool’s day 2012 than having the Edmonton Oilers face the Anaheim Ducks?
Having already burned the gag where the Oilers called up Magnus Paajarvi from Oklahoma City of the AHL when they weren’t allowed to a day or so early, and with the Columbus Blue Jackets unavailable, a game between two outfits hopelessly out of the Western Conference playoff race and crawling toward game No. 82 on their hands and knees is the perfect stunt, no?
With fans in Edmonton clinging to hope the Oilers don’t mess-up their second seed in the NHL Entry Draft lottery with a late spasm of life and a win or three and most Anaheim fans — let’s face it, they don’t give a squirt of sun tan lotion what happens — already a couple blocks down the road at the Big A watching the Angels, this is not a match-up that holds much intrigue.
For the Oilers, 14th in the Western Conference with 71 points from a record of 31-38-9, tonight marks the first of two quick games in California – they face the Kings in Los Angeles Monday – before they take on the Ducks one more time, at Rexall Place Thursday. The Oilers/Spoilers/Coilers close out the season, their sixth straight out of the playoffs, in Vancouver Saturday.
Is it too blunt to simply say, "Get on with it?"
If you want to consider it progress, the Oilers 13-21-4 road record with three road games left to play, gives them one more victory away from home than they managed all last season, when they went 12-23-6. This juggernaut has four more wins than 2009-10, when they were 9-28-4. The team is on pace to reach 20 road wins during the 2013-14 season.
The Oilers didn’t skate in Anaheim this morning so nobody got a look at Tom Renney’s forward line combinations or defense pairings, but you can count on several changes to the line-up, even if Paajarvi won’t be one of them.
— Colten Teubert, recalled from Oklahoma City, and Cam Barker, who has been a healthy scratch for 15 straight games, will both be inserted on the blue line for injured Ladislav Smid and Jeff Petry. There is a possibility they will be play together in a third pairing – a possibility one can only imagine the Ducks await with great anticipation.
"It’s great to get back in," said Barker, who hasn’t played since Feb. 29 vs. St. Louis. "It’s been a while, so I’m looking forward to it and the next three. It’s tough not playing. You want to play, compete and help the team. I’ve got to keep working hard and hang in there."
— Expect Ryan Whitney, Nick Schultz, Andy Sutton and Corey Potter to get the vast majority of the ice time as Renney tries to
hide Teubert and Barker manage the ice time of his overmatched back end.
— Renney indicated this morning that centre Eric Belanger could make a return to the line-up after taking a seat in the press box, meaning Chris VandeVelde might get a place in the cheap seats.
— Renney was non-committal when asked about inserting Linus Omark, so it seems unlikely the shifty Swede will get a chance to be lost in the Belanger Triangle against the Ducks in his final days as an Oiler. It seems more likely Omark will play in Los Angeles.
— Devan Dubnyk gets a chance to carry the roll he fashioned in March into April as he’ll get the start. Dubnyk, who went 6-2-1 with a 1.95 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage in March, is 19-18-2 with a 2.71 goals-against average and a saves percentage of .913.
The Oilers will face Anaheim’s top stopper in Jonas Hiller, who is 29-28-11 with a 2.53 GAA and a saves percentage of .912.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Ducks won’t roll like they did in a 5-0 rout of the Oilers at Rexall Place Jan. 13, but they’ll be more than good enough to prevail and make it three straight wins over Edmonton in the season series. Think along the lines of 5-2. The rematch is here Thursday.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: With Teubert and Barker forced into action on Edmonton’s blue line, don’t be surprised if Bruce Boudreau plays Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Teemu Selanne and Bobby Ryan until the wheels fall off.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Having the 41-year-old Selanne skate circles around him on the way to a four-night as his career goes deeper into the dumper causes Barker to snap after the game. A distraught Barker throws himself under the Oilers bus as it pulls away from the rink on the way to LA. He finds Omark there.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.