Sunday, November 22, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Oilers This Week

Last week:

The Oilers went 1-1-1 last week as they wrapped up a five-game road trip (1-2-2) and kicked off a five-game home stand.

They started the week with a 3-2 shootout loss to the Blue Jackets where they were 2-for-5 on the power play, but they also gave up two power play goals.
Two nights later, the Oil came from behind a couple of times to beat the Colorado Avalanche 6-4 – captain Ethan Moreau left the game after an elbow to the head from Avs defenseman Ryan Wilson. On Saturday night, with Oil Kings goalie Torrie Jung as the backup, the Oil fell 5-2 to the Blackhawks.

Edmonton has won just two of nine November games (2-5-2) and currently sit in 12th spot in the Western Conference, three points out of 11th place Vancouver.

This week:

The Oil are much better at home than on the road, although with that loss on Saturday night, they drop to 7-4-1 at Rexall Place – still pretty decent.

It’s a busy week for the Oilers as we head towards the end of November, with games on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and then a quick turnaround for a game in Vancouver on Saturday.

The games get progressively tougher, standings wise, as the week progresses – they’ll be up against seventh place Phoenix, fifth place LA and first place San Jose.

Coyotes @ Oilers
Monday Nov. 23rd – Pre game: 5:30pm, Puck drop: 7pm; 630 CHED

-Coming into tonight’s game, the Coyotes have won two of three, with that loss coming in overtime and their latest win coming against a strong Philadelphia Flyers club. After a 9-4-0 October, Phoenix has cooled off a bit, going 4-5-1 so far this month and are led by captain Shane Doan, who has 16 points this season. Radim Vrbata has goals in two of his last three games. Goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has the league’s third-best GAA and is tied for the second most wins – so Edmonton’s forwards could have a tough time putting the puck in the net.

Kings @ Oilers
Wednesday Nov. 25th – Pre game: 6pm, Puck drop: 7:30pm; 630 CHED

-The LA Kings have been one of the surprises this season, for me at least. Through 24 games, they sit fifth in the conference and probably would be leading their division if it didn’t include the league-best SJ Sharks. As good as they’ve been, the Kings have lost two in a row and are 5-5 in November (including a 7-0 loss to the Thrashers). Kings forward Anze Kopitar leads the NHL in scoring (as of Monday morning) with 14 goals and 33 points and shares the league lead in power play points with 14. Former Oiler and the guy behind Kopitar in team scoring, Ryan Smyth, is out of the LA lineup right now with an injury, which hurts their offense. Jonathan Quick, like Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, is tied for second among goalies with 12 wins this season.

Sharks @ Oilers
Friday Nov. 27th – Pre game: 6pm, Puck drop: 7:30pm; 630 CHED

-The Oilers have won only two games in November – the Sharks have points in 14 of 15 games, dating back to October 24th. As of the start of the week, San Jose has won two in a row after suffering their first regulation loss of the month. Joe Thornton, Dany Heatley and Patrick Marleau have proven to be a dangerous trio, with point totals of 32, 28 and 27 in 25 games. Heatley leads the league in goals with 18 and Marleau is right behind him with 14. It should come as no surprise that the Sharks have the league’s best power play (Heatley and Thornton have a combined 27 power play points), so the Oil will have to try and stay out of the box.

Oilers @ Canucks
Saturday Nov. 28th – Pre game: 6:30pm, Puck drop: 8pm; 630 CHED

-Another team with a hot power play is the Vancouver Canucks – they’re number six in the league in that category. Despite that, they come into this week just three points up on Edmonton in 11th place in the Conference. The Canucks started the month with a three-game win streak, followed by three straight losses, followed by two wins, so needless to say they’ve been a streaky club this season. This is a big game for the Oilers, who need all the divisional wins they can get at this point in the season.

Who’s hot:

Lubomir Visnovsky – The Oilers blue liner has been racking up the points lately, with a three game streak going and points in four of his last five games (1g,5a).

Sheldon Souray – The team definitely missed Souray’s rocket of a shot while he sat out for over a month dealing with the after-effects of a concussion. He’s got three points in his last three games, including a goal on Saturday.

Shawn Horcoff – He had a slow start to the season, but Shawn Horcoff is now riding a four-game point streak and has seven points in his last seven games.

What to watch for:

The injury situation – Marc Pouliot (sports hernia, 2-3 weeks) and Ryan Stone (knee, day-to-day) skated a bit on Friday and may return to practice soon; on Sunday, Taylor Chorney (ankle, day-to-day) and Robert Nilsson (concussion, day-to-day) got back on the ice for a light skate – no word on when either player will be back. Nikolai Khabibulin didn’t play on Saturday because of a sore back – as of today, he’s day-to-day as they try and figure out what’s wrong.

The goaltending situation – with the ‘Bulin wall on the shelf, for now at least, the Oilers have recalled Devan Dubnyk from Springfield of the AHL. That means they’ll be playing with two pretty inexperienced guys between the pipes, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Can JD step up and shine in Khabibulin’s absence? If he’s called into action, can Dubnyk show the coaching staff that he’s ready?

The veterans taking charge – On Sunday morning the coaching staff called the players in for a quick meeting at Rexall Place and kept a group of seven players for a 90-minute meeting to “clear the air.” Both sides vented and had an open discussion according to captain Ethan Moreau. It’ll be interesting to see how the players respond moving forward. It has been a bit of a rollercoaster season so far where they’ve had success, they’ve had failure, the flu bug ravaged the room, injuries had them playing shorthanded, and so on. They need the vets to keep the team on an even keel.

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