After facing the heaviest team in the NHL on Tuesday the Oilers face the 2nd heaviest team tonight. The LA Kings average weight is 210 pounds, and the only forwards shorter than 6’1" are Dustin Brown, 6’0", while Mike Richards and Brad Richardson stand 5’11". Richards and Brown are two of their most physical forwards, so the Oilers need to be ready to compete.
Tonight will be a great test to see how they bounce back from a disastrous first period against the Sharks.
The defending Stanley Cup champions are 0-2 while the Oilers want to erase Tuesday’s debacle as quick as possible. Both teams admitted they will be in a sour mood this evening.
"We are a pretty pissed-off team right now. We don’t have a win. We need one. I expect they will be mad too," said Jarret Stoll on my radio show yesterday. The Kings have yet to score a PP goal, and Stoll hinted they are more angry than worried at this point.
"We haven’t played a full game yet. We were very good for the first two periods in Colorado, but we gave up a lead in the third, which was very uncharacteristic for our club. We can’t afford to fall too far behind in the standings in such a short season, and I expect we will be much better and more intense on Thursday," Stoll continued.
The Oilers were singing the same tune.
"We didn’t play very smart. We had lots of energy on Tuesday, but we let it control us. We all have to play better, especially early in the game and I’m looking forward to getting off to a good start," said Devan Dubnyk.
Dubnyk didn’t seem rattled at all after a tough first period v. San Jose. I sensed he was more looking forward to bouncing back, rather than worrying about how he and the team played on Tuesday.
LINE UP CHANGES
Teemu Hartikainen and Magnus Paajarvi will switch lines and wings. Krueger wants some speed with Horcoff and Smyth and he is looking for Hartikainen to be more physical on the fourth line.
Mark Fistric will play his first game as an Oiler and he’ll be paired up with Ryan Whitney. Firstric will line up on the left side, because he’s more comfortable there, but if he and Whitney switch sides during the play they won’t worry switching back right away.
Krueger said Fistric is a "specialist", and he expects him to help the PK and then add some physical presence to the lineup.
Ben Eager has a concussion and is out indefinitely. It is unclear how long he’ll be out, but Steve Tambellini might have to find another forward who can play physical, because right now the Oilers don’t have many bangers in the lineup.
Krueger suggested the Oilers will make a decision on Theo Peckham tonight. I expect he’ll go down to OKC on a two-week conditioning stint. The Oilers will want to send a message to him and the rest of the team that it is unacceptable to show up in camp not in tip-top shape.
Nikolai Khabibulin is getting closer to playing. Krueger suggested it isn’t weeks anymore. I wonder if you will see Khabibulin next Thursday when the Oilers play back-to-back on Wednesday and Thursday?
Every Oiler I spoke with said basically the same thing regarding their discipline. They have to watch their sticks and not be too aggressive with them in the first ten minutes.
The Kings are 0 for 11 on the PP thus far. They are due to break out, so the Oilers need to play smart. The Oilers’ PP is clicking at 33%, 3 for 9, and they’d really help their cause if they could force the Kings to take some penalties early in the game.
Detroit has the worst special teams in the NHL. They are 0 for 15 on the PP, and they’ve allowed 6 goals on 14 PK opportunities. It is early, but the Wings are a shadow of the team we’ve seen during the past two decades.
The Oilers only have five right-handed shots in the lineup. Eberle, Hemsky, Gagner, J.Schultz and Petry. All of their bottow two lines and 3rd D pairing shoot left. I suspect that presents challenges at certain areas on the ice.
Simon Gagne had a tumour the size of a tennis ball removed from his neck during the summer. He thinks it might have been a reason why he continued to have concussion-like symptoms. He is now healthy and hopeful his concussion issues are behind him.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers will play much better than they did on Tuesday, but the Kings are the defending Cup champions and they’ll leave Rexall with their first win of the season, 4-3.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been rather quiet thus far, but he’ll play he pick up two points and generate significantly more offence. The Kings will score their first PP goal of the season after the Oilers take another careless stick infraction early in the third period.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: During the first TV timeout a pancake will be tossed on the ice. With Dustin Penner a healthy scratch, many will wonder why it was thrown on the ice. Within seconds of the pancake landing, Penner will be seen leaving the pressbox with a smirk on his face. "I wasn’t going to let any Oiler fan throw one first," he deadpanned.
One of the hardest things in life is watching a grown man cry. Wanye lost five pounds on Tuesday, which is a lot for one day, but it’s even scarier when all of it came out of his tear ducts. Even the free heroin beers at Rexall couldn’t console him. But that wasn’t the worst part. Yesterday he called me up bawling. I assumed he was still mad over the loss and how his man-crush, Jordan Eberle didn’t score, but that wasn’t it.
He’s down in the dumps because his first annual Nation draft isn’t sold out yet. He wanted $1,000 entries so he could raise a significant chunk of change for charity, and he’s not taking it well. You’d think he’d be used to rejection by now, after getting shut down on a bi-weekly basis at the Pint, but he isn’t.
Do me a favour, and him, and enter his draft. It’s a pretty KICK-ASS draft to be honest.
First place wins a $5,000 shopping spree at United Cycle and there are 99 other prizes in the Nation’s First Annual hockey draft. It is only $20 bucks with a portion of the funds going to charity. Bragging rights are on the line boys and girls, so enter today.
Wanye can’t afford to lose another five pounds tonight. So enter. NOW.