So, Edmonton Oilers coach Dallas Eakins has already warned against taking the Buffalo Sabres lightly when the teams meet Monday. If that’s not a "no-shit, Sherlock" moment, I don’t know what is.
With the NHL equivalent of Milhouse van Houten taking on Steve Urkel in a WWE cage match, the 29th-place Oilers, fresh from having their heads held in the toilet by the Boston Bruins 4-0 in a Beantown matinee Saturday, face the 30th-place Sabres in a showdown of pencil necks.
Facing the Sabres, dead-last in NHL standings at 15-31-8 for 38 points in the first of two meetings of the teams this season, Eakins was quoted on the team’s Twitter feed today:
"We’re in no position to take anybody lightly… I’d like us to have more fight in our game to get to the net." – Eakins on Buffalo
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) February 2, 2014
Fight in their game? One is tempted to add execution in their game, consistency in their game and attention to detail in their game, but that might be piling too much on the plate as the Oilers, 18-33-6 for 42 points, guard against taking the Sabres lightly.
I haven’t heard the interview/question that prompted Eakins to offer the quote, but it is mind-boggling to think the Oilers might take any team lightly 57 games into what’s been a dumpster fire of a season.
THUMBS ON THE OUTSIDE, FELLAS
If this was a fist fight, the Oilers and Sabres would have to be told to keep their thumbs on the outside before flailing away. If nothing else, the Oilers, headed for an eighth straight year out of the playoffs, and the Sabres, who’ll need a ticket to get in for a third straight season, are evenly matched.
Buffalo is dead-last in the NHL with just 105 goals-for. The good news for Ted Nolan’s outfit is the Oilers rank 30th in goals-against with 194. Nobody throws the welcome mat at the feet of their goaltenders like Edmonton. The Oilers rank 18th in goals-for with 147, while the Sabres are middling, 19th, with 161 goals-against.
All told, the Sabres rank 30th in goal differential at minus-56. The Oilers are right behind them in 29th at minus-47. It’s straight-up even in terms of how the teams rank at home and on the road. The Sabres have treated their fans to a 9-15-5 record, which is 29th. The Oilers are 8-19-14 on the road. Buffalo is 2-5-3 in its last 10 games, while the Oilers are 3-6-1.
Of course, both teams are lottery locks, but if you’re keeping score at home, the Sabres have three games in hand in the race for the No. 1 overall seed going into the Entry Draft lottery.
WHAT ABOUT BEN?
. . . To understate, Ben Scrivens, who has faced 100 shots and given up just four goals in his last two games, has been impressive in his five appearances in the goal crease with the Oilers. Thanks in large part to his 59-save shutout against San Jose, he has a gaudy .944 save-percentage with Edmonton.
I don’t for a second doubt that Scrivens has already shown the Oilers enough to warrant a contract offer as he approaches UFA status, but unless the team in front of him shows something the rest of the way, I wonder if he’ll want to sign on here for another two or three years.
Yes, Alberta is home for Scrivens and this opportunity in Edmonton represents his first real chance to grab a job as starter and run with it, but if he’s anywhere near as impressive the rest of the way as he has been, he will have options if the Oilers wait until the end of the season to get ink done.
If I’m GM Craig MacTavish, I’m picking up the phone and talking contract with agent Jay Fee right now.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.