Prior to the Olympic break, the Oilers lost three of four games – ending in a 7-3 loss to the Anaheim Ducks.
In February, the Oilers went 3-5-0 after going winless in the month of January (0-10-2). With 21 games left in the season, Edmonton is dead last in the league, five points back of the Toronto Maple Leafs and 16 points out of second last in the West.
It’s a busy week for the Oilers as they get back to work with a pair of road games and a pair of games at Rexall Place.
The Nashville Predators are up first on Tuesday night, followed by a trip to Chicago to face the Blackhawks the next night. The Oilers return home to take on the Minnesota Wild on Friday and the New Jersey Devils on Sunday.
Oilers @ Predators
Tuesday March 2nd – Pre game: 4:30pm, Puck drop: 6pm; 630 CHED
-The Preds come into this game after a so-so month of February that saw them post a 3-2-2 record in seven games, looking to hold onto a playoff spot with a strong showing in the month of March. Nashville currently sits in seventh place, with a one-point lead over their division mates, the Detroit Red Wings. Nashville added some depth to their blue line on Monday by sending a second round pick to the Oilers for defenseman Denis Grebeshkov, who will face his former team immediately. The Preds are 2-1 against Edmonton this season, registering 6-3 and 5-3 wins, after a 6-1 loss in their fourth game of the season. Offensively, the team is led by a group of about six players all within two points of one another – Patric Hornqvist leads the team in goals with 23, but is tied with J.P. Dumont for the team lead in points with 37. Defenseman Shea Weber is right up there with 11 goals and 35 points, providing a threat from the back end. In net, Pekka Rinne has started the bulk of the team’s games, but both he and Dan Ellis have shown signs that they are capable of filling the role of a number one net minder.
Oilers @ Blackhawks
Wednesday March 3rd – Pre game: 5pm, Puck drop: 6:30pm; 630 CHED
-The Chicago Blackhawks are 3-0 against the Oilers this season and have won seven of the last eight meetings between the two clubs, including a 9-2 drubbing last season that no Oiler fan has been able to forget. The Hawks are a highly skilled club that was on a roll heading into the Olympic break, winning four in a row. Fatigue could be an issue for a handful of players that were playing in those Olympics, including captain Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith. Kane leads the team in points with 25 goals and 67 points, with Toews a point shy of 50 on the season. Between the pipes, Cristobal Huet and Antti Niemi both have around 20 wins this season (24 and 17, respectively) with four shutouts each…though goaltending may be where this team is weakest.
Wild @ Oilers
Friday March 5th – Pre game: 5:30pm, Puck drop: 7pm; 630 CHED
-The Oilers and the Wild meet up for the fourth time this season, though the fact that it’s a divisional game no longer means much due to Edmonton’s place in the standings. The Oil won the first of the three meetings between the two clubs but the Wild, who went 3-3 in February, have taken the last two meetings. Mikko Koivu leads this team offensively with 56 points and is coming off a bronze medal win in Vancouver. Guillaume Latendresse is another offensive weapon for the Wild, with 18 goals and 26 points in 36 games with the team this season. Nik Backstrom is Minnesota’s go-to guy in net and may feel like he has something to prove after backing up Miikka Kiprusoff for Finland at the Olympics.
Devils @ Oilers
Sunday March 7th – Pre game: 4:30pm, Puck drop: 6pm; 630 CHED
-In their only meeting of the season, the Oilers host Martin Brodeur and the NJ Devils on Sunday. The Devils haven’t been at their best in the last two months, but thankfully for them – neither have the Pittsburgh Penguins, with whom they’re in a fierce battle for the Atlantic Division crown. Coming into this week, the Devils had a one point lead, but had lost four of five. Ilya Kovalchuk has yet to make a real impact with his new team, scoring just once in his first six games; Zach Parise has 28 goals and 61 points to lead the club and is coming off a strong performance on the world stage. Like Minnesota’s Nik Backstrom, Martin Brodeur may too feel like he has something to prove after a suspect performance against the US in the Olympics. The Devils are a dangerous club and need all the points they can get – the Oilers can’t allow them to turn this into a blowout.
Lubomir Visnovsky – The Slovakian defenseman is coming off a strong Olympics and has been one of the Oilers more consistent performers this season. His offensive output is often key to the team’s success.
Ethan Moreau – The captain has just 13 points in 60 games this season, but four points in his last three games following a game where he was a minus-4 in a 6-1 loss to Phoenix.
Ryan Potulny – One of the bright spots for the Oilers this season has been the play of Ryan Potulny. He seems to score in bunches, and has goals in two of his last three games, while playing almost 20 minutes per night.
What to watch for:
D-Day is coming – What will the team look like come Wednesday at 1pm? So far Denis Grebeshkov has been shipped out of town; but who is next? General Manager Steve Tambellini has said he’ll be trying to make some moves before the deadline…the makeup of the team could be quite different by the time the Oilers and Blackhawks meet up.