Monday, November 30, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Oilers This Week

Last week:

The Edmonton Oilers started a busy week with a 4-0 win over the Phoenix Coyotes, but fell 3-1 to the Kings, blew a couple of leads in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Sharks and were embarrassed 7-3 by the Canucks.

In the win over Phoenix, the Oil jumped out to an early lead and played two good periods before letting the Coyotes back into it. Thankfully for them, Jeff Deslaurier stood tall between the pipes for his first career shutout.

They scored first against the Kings two nights later, but gave up the game-winning goal late in the third period - head coach Pat Quinn was upset afterwards about the team's lack of secondary (and at times, primary, scoring). Forward Ales Hemsky was wallpapered by LA's Michael Handzus during this game; he's now out for 5-6 months with an injured shoulder that will require surgery.

On Friday night, the Oilers and Sharks were tied at 1's going into the third period, where six goals were scored, leaving them tied once again headed to extras. The Oil led 3-1 and 4-3 in the third period, but were unable to hold on. The game-tying goal was a shorthanded tally by Patrick Marleau with less than two minutes to go, after Edmonton won a defensive zone faceoff - one of three Marleau-from-Thornton goals on the night.

They wrapped up the week with a disappointing effort on Saturday night in Vancouver, giving up four goals before the first period was even half done. Jeff Deslaurier was yanked in favour of Devan Dubnyk, and while the Oil mounted a mini-comeback, getting to 5-3, they gave up a couple more goals.

This week:

The Oilers continue a six-game road trip with two games this week against teams they've beaten this season - one in Detroit and one in Dallas.

The team gets a much-needed four-day break between games to regroup as they look to perform a little better in December than they did in November, where they won just three of thirteen games.

Away from Rexall Place, the Oilers have just two wins and points in four of twelve games, a stat they desperately need to change at this point in the season if they expect to make a run for the playoffs in a few months.

Oilers @ Red Wings
Thursday, Dec. 3rd - Pre game 3:30, Puck drop 5pm; 630 CHED

-The Detroit Red Wings are having a tough go of things this year, with one win in their last four games, which bodes well for the Oilers. At the Joe, they are just 7-4-2 this season and they've struggled to score goals as of late. Three times last week, the Wings put up 40 shots and held their opponent to less than 25 - they scored once and lost all three games. Goaltending has been an issue for Detroit, so if the Oiler shooters can get to either Chris Osgood or Jimmy Howard early, they've got a shot at going 2-0 vs. the Wings. At the same time, if Detroit is putting up 40-some shots, Edmonton's goaltending will have to be sharp because the Wings have a very skilled and balanced offence led by the likes of Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk.

Oilers @ Stars
Saturday, Dec. 5th - Pre game 10:30am, Puck drop 12pm; 630 CHED

-The Dallas Stars play twice this week before entertaining the Oilers for an early weekend game, but as of Monday afternoon, they had lost two of three, but were coming off a win over the Lightning. Once you get past the Sharks, it's a tight race in the Pacific division, with the Kings, Stars and Coyotes all within a point of each other, which means Dallas is in a position to make some noise if they keep putting up wins. As of Monday, they had won three of five, with points in four of those games, and after Saturday's game with the Oil, they head out on a five-game road trip with three divisional matchups. Brad Richards leads the Stars with 25 assists and 32 points through 24 games, with four or five guys hovering around the 10-goal mark. Marty Turco hasn't been the dominant force between the pipes that he was in previous years though, with an 8-5-5 record so far.

Who's hot:

Gilbert Brule and Dustin Penner - Both players are coming off back-to-back two point games where they each had a goal and an assist. Brule has five points (2g, 3a) in his last four games; Penner has seven (3g, 4a) in his last five.

Sam Gagner - As a whole, the Oilers have struggled offensively but Gagner has six points (1g, 5a) in his last six outings. He's been a good setup man, and that's important for a team struggling to find the net.

Ryan Potulny - The Grand Forks native had the game-tying goal and what should have been the game-winner for Edmonton against San Jose on Friday. He's got potential to be a big part of the Oilers offence as he gets more experience. He also scored against LA, giving him four points (3g, 1a) in four games.

What to watch for:

Players coming back - The Oilers have about five players who are either listed as day-to-day, or they're on the tail end of an injury and should be back in the lineup soon. For a team ravaged by injuries, it could be a boost to get some guys back in the lineup. Among the players I'm talking about are Marc Pouliot, Ryan Stone, Taylor Chorney, Robert Nilsson and...

The goaltending situation - Nikolai Khabibulin hasn't played since November 16th due to a sore back, leaving the workload on the shoulders of an inexperienced Jeff Deslaurier. JD has shown flashes of greatness, like his shutout of the Coyotes on Monday, but he's also been shaky at time (and it doesn't help when not much defence is being played in front of you). The Oil need the veteran presence of Khabibulin back between the pipes down the stretch.

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