Monday, December 21, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Oilers This Week

Last week:

Edmonton’s last three games were all about comebacks, but unfortunately each result was a loss following a string of five straight road wins.

In a 3-2 loss to the LA Kings on Tuesday, the Oil stormed back from a 2-0 deficit only to give up a goal with about 4:30 to go in the third period (for the second time this season vs. LA).

On Thursday night it was Edmonton with an early 2-0 lead, but they gave up four unanswered goals in a 6-3 loss to the Nashville Predators, who scored three times in less than five minutes at one point.

The final game of the week for Edmonton saw them plunder another 2-0 lead, while giving up another four unanswered goals – this time in a 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals.

This week:

The Oilers wrap up a four-game home stand tonight against the St. Louis Blues and then hit the road for a game in Minnesota on Wednesday. There’s some holiday on Friday, but the Oil are right back at it on Saturday in Vancouver.

Edmonton desperately needs to string together some wins to avoid falling too far behind. Coming into this week, they’re at the bottom of the Western Conference, seven points out of a playoff spot.

Blues @ Oilers
Monday Dec. 15th - Pre game: 5:30pm, Puck drop: 7pm; 630 CHED

-In a sort of ironic twist, the week before the Oilers gave up four straight goals in two straight games, they scored five unanswered in a 5-3 win over the Blues in St. Louis for their fifth straight win. The Oil have lost three straight since then, while the Blues are 2-2, coming off a 3-1 win over the Canucks on Sunday night – the first game of a four-game road trip. St. Louis is 5-4 so far in December and they sit a point out of last in the West. The team is led offensively by forward Brad Boyes, who has 22 points, but there are a handful of players hovering around the 10-goal mark. Defenseman Erik Johnson is having a solid season averaging almost 22 minutes per game, with 21 points from the blue line. Goalies Chris Mason and Ty Conklin are both capable of standing on their heads to steal a game, but neither has done so too often this season.

Oilers @ Wild
Wednesday Dec. 23rd - Pre game: 3:30, Puck drop: 5pm; 630 CHED

-In the post-equipment fire era, the Wild are 0-1, but they should be more comfortable in their new gear by mid-week. If you didn’t hear, the team’s equipment van caught fire last Friday and most players lost everything. It seems like a non-issue, but breaking in new gear (especially for goalies) can take a while. Anyways, the Wild have won nine of their last 12 games and, as of Monday, are 7-3 in the month of December. After a slower start to the season, they’ve been on a roll and are suddenly fighting to get back into the thick of things. Right now the Wild are three points back of Vancouver for third in the Northwest division and wrap up the month with four of their last six games taking place at home, where they’re 10-3-1 this season. Mikko Koivu, younger brother of Saku, leads Minnesota in scoring with 10 goals and 33 points and Andrew Brunette is right behind him with 29. Goalie Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding might still be adjusting to their new gear by Wednesday, which could be a bonus for the Oilers.

Oilers @ Canucks
Saturday Dec. 26th - Pre game: 6:30pm, Puck drop: 8pm; 630 CHED

-The last time the Oilers visited the Canucks, they were rocked 7-3 – in fact, Edmonton is 0-2 in Vancouver so far this season after coming out on top in the first meeting of the season. The Canucks have been a streaky team this season – they’ll win three, lose three; win two, lose two, etc. So while they’ve chalked up some pretty impressive wins, they’d still be on the outside looking in if the playoff started today. Coming into this week, the Canucks have lost 2-of-3 and are 6-4 this month. Henrik Sedin leads his team’s offense with 15 goals and 44 points and the Canucks have five players with at least 10 points on the power play, which means the Oilers will want to avoid taking dumb penalties. Vancouver has a core of forwards like the Sedin twins, Mason Raymond, Ryan Kesler, Mikael Samuelsson etc, that can all put the puck in the net given the opportunity, so it’ll be important for Edmonton to play sound defensively. They won’t want to get in a run-and-gun style game with the Canucks, because it’s unlikely they’ll be able to get much past Roberto Luongo; he’s allowed three or fewer goals in all but two of his last 16 starts.

Who's hot:

Robert Nilsson – Nilsson scored two highlight-reel goals against Nashville in a 6-3 loss last week and has eight points in his last nine games. He’s a -4 in his last three games though, which has to change.

Sheldon Souray – The veteran defenseman has been quiet offensively this year but has four points in his late three games. If the two-time 20-goal scorer can continue to contribute, it’ll mean good things for the Oilers.

Lubomir Visnovsky – Visnovsky has seven points in his last eight games and has moved into second on the team in scoring with eight goals and 25 points. He’s been a -1 in three straight games though, a stat the coaching staff would like to see less of.

What to watch for:

The goaltending situation – Jeff Deslaurier has started 14 straight games in the absence of Nikolai Khabibulin, who is still listed as “out indefinitely” by the team with a bad back. At some point, the coaching staff will have to let Devan Dubnyk start a game or two – or will they ride Deslaurier?

Who will step up? – The Oilers have had contributions from the vets, the young guys, the call-ups and the goalies at different points in the season, but never all at once on a consistent basis. Will they be able to come together and make a run for the playoffs?

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