Tonight the Oilers will try to win three consecutive games for the first time this season. They’ve won back-to-back games only three times this year, and in their two previous attempts they lost in a SO vs. San Jose and in OT to Detroit. Their inability to put together a winning streak, even a short three-gamer, is the reason why they sit in 12th place in the west.
The Oilers are one of six teams without a three-game winning streak, and not surprisingly all six of them are out of the playoffs. Florida has won two straight game only twice, Oilers have done it three times, the Flames, Avalanche and Flyers four times and the Coyotes have won two straight five times.
No team in the history of the NHL has made the playoffs without a three-game winning streak, so if the Oilers have any post-season aspirations they need a win over the red-hot Vancouver Canucks.
The Canucks skate into Rexall Place on a six-game winning streak. They’ve won all six by with excellent goaltending and an average offence. Corey Schneider has allowed only 6 goals on 166 shots, .963SV%, while the Canucks have only scored 13 goals in the six wins.
The Oilers faced Roberto Luongo in their previous two meetings this year. They won 3-2 in a SO on January 20th in Vancouver and lost 3-2 in OT at Rexall Place on February 4th. While Schneider is playing great, the Canucks offence isn’t that dynamic. They’ve scored 3+ goals in only 4 of their past 14 games, while the Oilers have tallied 3 or more in 6 of their past 9 games.
I doubt the Oilers can beat the Canucks in a defensive matchup, so they should try to turn tonight into a run-and-gun affair.
Dubnyk picked up his 9th win of the season after replacing Nikolai Khabibulin 33 seconds into the third period. Dubnyk stopped all nine shots he faced and he’ll try to end Schneider’s six-game winning streak tonight.
I don’t see any reason Krueger makes any other lineup changes. Only option would be to bring in Fistric for Potter/Whitney.
- Ralph Krueger benched Taylor Hall for two shifts at the start of the third period, after two bad turnovers in the neutral zone late in the 2nd period. The Oilers can’t afford to sit Hall for an entire period or a game, but Krueger’s message was loud and clear. Benching Hall for two shifts sends a strong message to every player, and Hall admitted after the game that he deserved it. The best part was that no one made a big deal about it. Hall got the message, coach got his team’s attention and Hall will likely be much smarter with the puck tonight.
- I sat in row one on Thursday and it was a great reminder of how fast the game is. Watching it on TV and from the pressbox makes the game look much easier than it is. It’s amazing how quick the players react, how fast even the slowest NHLer is, and how excellent their hand-eye coordination is.
- Thursdays game might have been the best home game of the season, from a pure entertainment standpoint. The goaltending wasn’t great, Khabibulin, but there were three highlight reel goals; Eberle, Anisimov and Hemsky. There were lots of chances, few penalties and an exciting scrap. Fans don’t get to experience many of those games, but that one offered something from beginning to end.
- Taylor Hall, 31 points in 30 games, is on pace to become the first point-a-game player in Edmonton since Ryan Smyth tallied 31 goals and 53 points in 53 games in 2007. He finished the season with 15 points in 18 games with the Islanders, so his full season wasn’t a point-a-game pace, but he did do it with Edmonton.
- Doug Weight was the last Oiler to play a full season and average over one point-per-game when he tallied 90 points in 82 games during the 2000/2001 season.
- The Penguins announced today that D-man Paul Martin will be out for six weeks. The Penguins still have about $4.5 million in cap space, so don’t be surprised if Ray Shero makes another bold move.
- In the past four days, the Oilers’ playoff chances have jumped up 8%. After back-to-back wins they are up to 12.1% according to sportsclubstats.com. Could they jump to 16% with a victory tonight…Dare to dream Oiler fans, dare to dream.
- Rumblings from Vancouver today is that the Canucks have put David Booth on LTIR, meaning they have the value of his contract, $4.25 million, to spend above the cap. The Canucks desperately need some more scoring, and this move gives Mike Gillis the cap space to make a move.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers will get their first three-game winning streak of the season with a 4-3 regulation win. Eberle, Hall and Gagner will each have two points.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Saturday night game on a long weekend means 25 people will get booted out during the game. I’ll chat with security after the game to see the final tally, but I’m always amazed at how many people spend big bucks to go to the game, but end up allowing the Rexall Beer to get the best of them. Drink responsibly my friends.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Sam Gagner and Alex Burrows drop the gloves in a spirited second-period tilt. Anytime Samwise drops the mitts the fans get energized. Gagner likes to scrap once or twice a year, and after Burrows gives Paajarvi a cheap shot, Gagner flies in to defend his linemate. After the fight the crowd chants, Re-Sign Gagner, Re-sign Gagner…