Teemu Hartikainen will get a promotion today when the Oilers take on the Detroit Red Wings, if Ralph Krueger sticks with the lines he used at practice yesterday.
Krueger shuffled his lines after they produced only nine even strength goals in the first ten games of the season. The Oilers are last in ES goals, and that’s the main reason they’ve lost four in a row.
Yesterday Krueger had Belanger between 91 and 64 while Smyth was in the middle on the fourth line, but Belanger is not eligible to return from the IR until tomorrow, so I expect Smyth to be in the middle on the third line and Vande Velde to skate on the fourth line.
Krueger had no choice but to juggle his lines. You can’t win in the NHL if you can’t score at ES, and the Oilers have struggled at ES for the past three seasons. They were 22nd in ES goals in 2012, 28th in 2011 and 20th in 2010.
He might just keep the top two lines the same though.
The reality is that until the Oilers have enough players willing to score from the tough areas, they will struggle producing. The Oilers have loads of offensive skill, but you can’t expect to win scoring only pretty goals. They need some garbage goals, and I’m not sure line juggling will guarantee that if the players don’t alter their strategy in the offensive zone.
I’d play Fistric and Whitney ahead of Potter at this point. Fistric gives you a physical presence on the backend and he’s solid on the PK, while I still feel Whitney, even if he’s struggling can give you more than Potter.
That being said I expect Fistric to be in the pressbox today. His back might still be a bit tight, and the Oilers will go with puck movers against Detroit.
Dubnyk has been great so far this season so the obvious choice would be to play him, but the Oilers have lost four in a row and I wonder if Krueger goes with Khabibulin todaY.
The Oilers are 1-6-1 in their last eight visits to Detroit, but Dubnyk is 2-0-1 in his career v. the Wings. During his only start in Detroit he stopped 42 of 44 shots in an OT loss in 2011.
Khabibulin has lost his last six v. the Wings and is 1-6 all-time v. Detroit as an Oiler.
I’d start Dubnyk, but I won’t be surprised if Krueger goes with Khabibulin today due to a four game losing streak and goes with Dubnyk tomorrow.
- Ryan Jones is getting very close to playing. The Oilers could use some of his greasy goals, and his willingness to go to the net. When he is activated I’m guessing the Oilers will waive Darcy Hordichuk. Krueger won’t play him, so there is no point keeping him.
- The Wings blueline isn’t great and the Oilers should be able to create some quality chances this afternoon, especially the Hall/Gagner/Hemsky line. Hall and Hemsky have been excellent off the rush this year, and I’m curious to see how they will work together.
- I’m also curious to see Yakupov play with Paajarvi. Yakupov knows he has to shoot more, and with Paajarvi not a threat to shoot we should see 64 unload his heavy shot more often.
- Shameless plug….I’ll be calling the Edmonton Rush/Calgary Roughnecks game tonight at 7 p.m. on Sportsnet One. Tune in.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Wings aren’t the dominant team we’ve been accustomed to watching for the past ten years, and the Oilers pull off a 3-2 upset.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hall, Gagner and Hemsky will be the Oilers best line and they’ll produce two ES goals. Pavel Datsyuk also has a strong game including a sick dangle in the second period that will be on every highlight reel this evening.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The usually calm, cool and collected Tom Renney, will get into a verbal sparring match with Ben Eager during the second period. We won’t be able to hear or lip-read what was said, but Renney will point to his head a few times and give the thumbs down. Suggesting Eager isn’t that bright. Eager will be fired up and score the eventual game winner. After the game, Krueger will devise a plan that gets his players arguing with the opposing bench on a daily basis.