Game 31 Preview: Caution - Ice May Be Slippery
After a pair of overtime losses, the Jackets roll into Edmonton on a late night flight, hoping to pull two more points out of this trip before a return home.
For Ethan Moreau, it's a return to play the Franchise that he served as Captain, his home for 12 years. He missed the first opportunity on the schedule to see his old mates due to a broken hand - now he's mended and settling into the lineup.
With Derek Dorsett and Derek MacKenzie out of the lineup, the Jackets will need to decide if they put Jared Boll or Kyle Wilson into the lineup, or perhaps call an audible for another reliable player out of Springfield.
In net, it's hard to say - Steve Mason probably deserves a chance to get into the net and regain some confidence for himself and his teammates, but Mathieu Garon keeps pushing for more playing time.
On the perimeter of this discussion is the fact that the Oilers have lost two in a row at home, both by 4-1 scores to the Canucks and the Maple Leafs. They're a wounded animal, looking to strike back and deliver a salve to their fans and their own pride.
This one could get messy.
|Game Time: 9:30 pm EST|
|TV: Fox Sports Ohio (HD)|
|Radio: 97.1 WFAN|
|Blue Jackets vs Oilers coverage|
|Opponent's Blog: The Copper & Blue|
Several camps in the Jackets' fanbase have started to wonder if the team needs a bit more veteran presence - if we've let the kids run the show a little too much, and perhaps bringing a bit more experience into the room would be a good idea. They're also reinforced by the fact that the front office has committed to giving promising prospects like Matt Calvert, Tomas Kubalik, and John Moore more time to develop in the AHL without rushing them to the show.
On the other side of the coin is Edmonton, where their fans are looking at their depleted depth and lack of role players, and wondering if the best thing to do is dump more of their veterans with good market value in favor of more youth, and letting the kids play themselves up to speed.
Of course, there's also something to be said about the kids Edmonton has acquired - Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, and Linus Omark are quickly becoming recognized names for NHL fans - even as their team struggles, they've managed to produce some exceptional "WOW!" moments, from Eberle's diving shorthanded goal in his first NHL game, to Omark's controversial shootout move.
Even Edmonton's current record (11-14-5) isn't -so- bad. While they're 15th in the West, they're not totally eliminated from the hunt if they should get hot for a few games, and compared to teams like the Panthers, Devils, and Islanders? The future's so bright they have to wear shades.
As the team is also closing on the halfway mark of the season, I thought it was worth comparing them on where things sat.
In 2008-2009, on their way to the Playoffs, going into game 31, they were 13-14-03 with 29 points.
In 2009-10, they were 14-11-5, with 33 points.
16-11-3 is still a good hot pace. But if the West continues to be a dogfight, they'll need to find a bit more "oomph".
Keys To The Game:
- Lead From The Front - Despite battling back from behind in their last two games, the Jackets are even better when they can get a lead. 10-1-0 when leading after 1, and 9-0 when leading after 2.
- Bust The Wall - Nikolai Khabibulin is expected in Net for the Oilers. He is 8-8-4 against Columbus in his career, with a 3.14 GAA and a .886 save percentage. When the Oilers are scored on first, they're 4-12-3. Let's make it an unlucky 13.
- Weight Of Expectations - Despite a three game unbeaten streak on the road, the Oilers have dropped their last two in a row at home, and are 5-8-2 in Rexall Place, compared to 6-6-3 on the road. Maybe it's the pressures of playing in front of the home crowd for all those kids? Regardless, let's give them the business.
- Babysitting - As mentioned, the Oilers have some of the best young talent in the game - and with players like Horcoff and Hemsky on IR, they're leaning on them more than ever. Keeping the kids in check will be vital.
Blue Jackets Information:
Columbus Blue Jackets
|Rick Nash||Derick Brassard||Jakub Voracek|
|Kristian Huselius||Antoine Vermette||R.J. Umberger|
|Ethan Moreau||Samuel Pahlsson||Chris Clark|
|Tom Sestito||Kyle Wilson||Andrew Murray|
|Jan Hejda||Fedor Tyutin|
|Rostislav Klesla||Marc Methot|
|Mike Commodore||Kris Russell|
|Taylor Hall||Sam Gagner||Jordan Eberle|
|Dustin Penner||Andrew Cogliano||Linus Omark|
|Magnus Paajarvi||Gilbert Brule||Ryan Jones|
|Zack Stortini||Colin Fraser||Steve MacIntyre|
|Theo Peckham||Tom Gilbert|
|Ladislav Smid||Jason Strudwick|
|Ryan Whitney||Kurtis Foster|
Tidbit: Ryan Whitney already has 22 assists from the blue line for the Oil. If Howson decides to go shopping for some more blue line offense, how big a change would 22 assists have made to our season? If the Oil are out of it at the deadline, and the Jackets are above the bar or positioned to make a big push, you have to wonder...