Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Oilers This Week

Last week:

The Edmonton Oilers won all three of their games last week, beating the Panthers, Lightning and Blues and extending their road-win streak to five games - the first time in franchise history that they've hit that mark.

On Monday, Shawn Horcoff scored the shootout winner for the second straight game, adding a goal in regulation as the Oil beat Florida 3-2. Tough guy Zack Stortini scored the game-winning goal, adding an assist and a fight for the "Gordie Howe hat trick" in a 3-2 win over the Lightning on Wednesday. On Friday, it was Gilbert Brule with a pair of goals to kick-start the comeback as the Oil scored five unanswered in a 5-3 win over the St. Louis Blues.

This week:

The Oilers are at home for four games after a six-game stretch away from Rexall Place and three of those games fall into this week. The Oil host the Kings on Tuesday, the Preds on Thursday and the Capitals on Saturday.

It's imperative that Edmonton builds on that five game win streak that saw the team do a lot of things right, and battle back more than a few times to come out on top. Despite their recent success the Oilers still sit tied for 11th in the conference, just three points ahead of the last place Blues and Ducks.

The Oil are 8-5-2 through 15 games at home this season - they need to keep their confidence up during this next stretch of games by picking up as many points as possible.

Kings @ Oilers
Tuesday Dec. 15th - Pre game: 6pm, Puck drop: 7:30pm; 630 CHED

-First up for the Oil is the Kings, who had a four-game win streak snapped on Monday night in Vancouver and come into tonight's game having won seven of their last nine games. LA is one of those teams that has surprised a lot of people this season by winning as much as they have (in fact, they were the first team in the Western Conference to hit the 20-win plateau). They've been without former Oiler Ryan Smyth for a while though, and their power play has suffered big time because of that. For the first part of the season the Kings were led by Anze Kopitar, but since the team's last meeting with the Oilers, Kopitar (who led the league in scoring at one point) has just five points in 11 games. Another former Oiler, Jarret Stoll, is tied with captain Dustin Brown for second in team scoring with 25 points, while second-year defenceman Drew Doughty is right behind them with 24 points, three off his total from last season. In net, Jonathan Quick will likely get the start - the youngster is tied for second overall in the league with 19 wins so far this season.

Predators @ Oilers
Thursday Dec. 17th - Pre game: 6pm, Puck drop: 7:30pm; 630 CHED

-The Oilers will face a tough test on Thursday against the Nashville Predators. In November, the Preds lost just four of 13 games played and won seven in a row and eight of nine at one point during the month. December has been pretty good to the Preds as well, as they've put up a 4-1-2 record through seven games as of Tuesday (and they host the Lightning tonight). Nashville is led by a veteran core of guys like Steve Sullivan, who scored a hat trick on Monday night to take the team lead in points with 22, Jason Arnott and JP Dumont, who are tied for second with 20 points each. Their blue line is stacked with young talent and a few heavy shots, which the Oilers will have to be cognisant of. Between the pipes, Pekka Rinne is one of those goalies that can really shut teams down if he's in the zone. Edmonton will have to continue to throw pucks at the net and keep Rinne busy.

Capitals @ Oilers
Saturday Dec. 19th - Pre game: 6:30, Puck drop: 8pm; 630 CHED

-The Washington Capitals continue a four-game road trip tonight and on Friday in Colorado and then Vancouver before stopping in Edmonton for their tilt with the Oilers - as of Tuesday, they had lost two of three following a string of six straight wins. I don't think it's just a coincidence that goalie Semyon Varlamov has been hurt since last Monday, and all of a sudden the team has lost two of three games. Varlamov has an incredibly impressive 12-1-2 record this season, so not having him between the pipes would be a big plus for the Oilers, but they've got bigger concerns in guys like Alex Ovechkin, Ales Semin, Nick Backstrom and Mike Green. Ovie and Backstrom lead the team in scoring with 37 points each, Green is five back with 32 and Semin sits fourth in team scoring with 32 points so far this season. The Oil will have to be very aware of where each of those guys are when they're out on the ice, because they've proven time and again that if you give them a bit of space they can burn you.

Who's hot:

Dustin Penner - With goals in three straight games and six points during that span, Penner is on fire right now. With 36 points in 32 games this season, he's now just one point away from tying his total from all of last season.

Jeff Deslaurier - Ever since Nikolai Khabibulin went down with a back injury, the rookie netminder was thrust into the role of Edmonton's starter - and lately, he's looking like one. In each of the last five games, Deslaurier has allowed three goals or less while making no fewer than 27 saves each game. His confidence is key to the Oilers success.

Gilbert Brule - After a quiet few games, Brule has four points in his last two games, including a two-goal effort against the Blues on Friday, which really got the team going. He missed practise on Monday though, so he's likely a game-time decision on Tuesday.

What to watch for:

Team confidence - The Oilers have had some huge come-from-behind victories, culminating in that win on Friday over St. Louis that saw them erase a 3-0 deficit. If they can continue to build on those efforts and maintain that level of confidence, they could find themselves storming up the standings.

Blue line boost - Brule and Sheldon Souray both missed practise on Monday, but the Oil got some great news with Denis Grebeshkov expected to be back in the lineup against the Kings. Grebeshkov missed 13 games with a knee injury and will give the team a big boost at the back.

No comments: