GDB 30.0: Three in four

Tonight’s game kicks off a stretch of three games in four days – the Oilers host St. Louis this evening, go to Nashville to play Monday night, and then play again on Tuesday in St. Louis. To keep up with the playoff pack, they probably need to win two of three, with tonight’s match and the Monday game representing their best chances to come away with two points.

The Standings & Action Today

Today’s games:

  • San Jose @ Minnesota
  • Vancouver @ Los Angeles
  • Columbus @ Nashville
  • Colorado @ Dallas

From an Oilers’ playoff perspective, the most important game here is the one at the top of the list: a regulation loss for San Jose to the Wild would make a lot of teams happy. If cheering for the Wild to win even one game bothers the hardcore fan, feel free to spit after that sentence, so long as you aren’t in a library or something. Meanwhile, Nashville vs. Columbus is a two-edged sword; the Blue Jackets are on the precipice of the post-season but the Predators are still in the conversation. Given how few home games the Blue Jackets have left, I’d suggest a regulation win for them is probably the best case scenario here – sure they’re ahead of Nashville right now, but it’s hard to believe the other shoe isn’t about to drop.

From both a playoff perspective and a draft position perspective, a regulation win by Colorado over Dallas is the Oilers’ preferred outcome. Speaking of the latter view – both Tampa Bay and Buffalo play today; a win for both (combined with an Oilers’ loss) would move the Oilers into the eighth overall pick range, and tied in points with the team’s slated to make picks five through seven.

The magic number for the Oilers to make the playoffs entering action today (and assuming all teams maintain their current paces) is 54 points; they likely need either 12 wins and a regulation loss or 11 wins and three regulation losses in their final 19 games for a post-season berth.

The Lineup

The Oilers’ official Twitter feed had the lines from the morning skate, which were as follow:

  • Hall – Horcoff – Hemsky
  • Paajarvi – Gagner – Eberle
  • Jones – Belanger – Yakupov
  • Brown – Smyth – Petrell

On defence, the same six – Smid, Petry, the Schultzes, Whitney and Fistric – will dress, while Nikolai Khabibulin gets the start in net.

Predictions

Game day prediction: St. Louis is a very good team and jump out to a two goal lead, but the Oilers fight back in the third, force overtime and ultimately win 3-2 in the shootout.

Obvious game day prediction: Nail Yakupov, who has just one goal in his last 21 games, scores both of the Oilers’ regulation goals. Asked about the goals after the game, Yakupov shrugs and says ‘We win. We scored more goals. We win.’

Not-so-obvious game day prediction: Ralph Krueger wears a bright orange blazer and borrows the green hat Don Cherry wore last week for his post-game press availability. Before anyone can ask a question, he yells ‘WHAT DID I TELL YA? DIDN’T I SAY WE COULD WIN IN THE PENALTY SHOTS? SMITTY, SHOW THEM WHAT I SAID.’ At this point a much more conservatively dressed Steve Smith, who nobody had noticed until just then, fires up a monitor and a clip from Friday’s availability of Krueger saying “We just have a lot of confidence in our penalty shooting ability” and “we believe in our ability to win in penalty shots.”

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