Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Kerrzy’s Notebook: Oilers This Week

Last week:

After snapping a three-game losing skid with back-to-back wins, the Edmonton Oilers went 0-3 against Canadian competition in three games last week.

It started with a 4-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators, the second time in a week that the Oil were tied headed into third period and were heavily outshot. Two days later, the Oilers bounced back with a 5-4 shootout loss to the Montreal Canadiens and they rounded out the week with a 6-4 loss in Toronto.

This week:

The Oilers wrap up a four-game road trip with games in Columbus and Minnesota before returning home to face the Red Wings and Sharks in the first two of four straight home games.

Oilers @ Blue Jackets
Monday March 15th - Pre game: 3:30pm, Puck drop: 5pm; 630 CHED

-The Blue Jackets have won two of six since the Olympic break and, like the Oilers, are a team that is well out of the playoff picture heading into the home stretch. This will be the final matchup of the season between these two clubs, with the Oil looking to even the season series at two each. Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash is out with a lower body injury, which takes Columbus’ leading scorer out of the picture. Nash leads the team in scoring with 28 goals and 57 points, followed by Antoine Vermette’s 52 points and Kristian Huselius’ 49 points. In net, the Jackets have gone between Steve Mason and Mathieu Garon all season – Mason’s second year in the league hasn’t been what anyone expected though, which is part of the reason the team has fallen off a bit this season.

Oilers @ Minnesota
Tuesday March 16th - Pre game: 4:30pm, Puck drop: 6pm; 630 CHED

-The Minnesota Wild have won two in a row after dropping four straight games, including a pair of divisional games. They’re now eight points out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference and desperate for wins as their postseason hopes fade fast. Wild captain Mikko Koivu leads the team in scoring with 62 points in 68 games, while Guillaume Latendresse holds the team lead in goals with 25 (23 since joining the Wild). Nik Backstrom is Minnesota’s starting goaltender and is always a tough goalie to beat when he’s on his game. Josh Harding has started the last three games though, with Backstrom nursing a groin injury.

Red Wings @ Oilers
Friday March 19th - Pre game: 6pm, Puck drop: 7:30pm; 630 CHED

-The Detroit Red Wings are in an unfamiliar spot these days – battling for a playoff spot late in the season. After a 2-2-2 month of February though, the Wings have turned it on in the month of March so far putting up a 6-2-0 record to move three points clear of the Calgary Flames for eighth in the West (as of Tuesday). The Oilers have beaten the Red Wings both times the two teams have met this season, but the Wings need the points more than ever right now. Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk leads the team in scoring with 57 points and has goals in five of his last six games and 11 points in his last nine games. Henrik Zetterberg is tied for the team lead in points and defenseman Nik Lidstrom has really turned it on in the last 25 or so games. The Wings are always a dangerous team, but consistency has been tough for them this year. In goal, Jimmy Howard is starting to come into his own, making the bulk of starts this season.

Sharks @ Oilers
Sunday March 21st - Pre game: 4:30pm, Puck drop: 6pm; 630 CHED

-The San Jose Sharks have cemented their position as one of the league’s elite teams and they’ve been one of the teams this season that you really don’t want to play if you’re struggling on the defensive end of things. The Sharks have six players with at least 40 points on the season and are coming off a recent win that saw them put up eight goals against the stingy Predators. Like a few of the other top teams, I’m not totally convinced about San Jose’s goaltending. Evgeni Nabokov is obviously a good goalie, but he’s looked very human at times this season (like Russia’s 7-3 loss to Canada). The Oilers better come to play on Sunday, otherwise this one could get embarrassing.

Who’s hot:

Dustin Penner – The Oilers winger leads the team in scoring in March with 6 points in eight games and has been playing a lot better since being paired with Andrew Cogliano and Gilbert Brule (they had six points each too). That line could be key to any further success for the Oil.

Robert Nilsson – The 25-year-old has goals in two of his last three games coming into Tuesday night’s tilt against the Wild. If Nilsson is able to provide some secondary scoring, it could be key for the Oil.

Aaron Johnson – The deadline day acquisition put up two points in that loss to the Blue Jackets and has goals in back to back games and four points in his last four games. Good stuff!

What to watch for:

The Eberle Watch – The Edmonton Oilers assigned prospect Jordan Eberle to the Springfield Falcons on Monday, after his WHL season came to a close (50g, 106pts in 57 games). Will the team call him up to the big league?

The Battle in Net – Jeff Deslaurier and Devan Dubnyk are playing musical chairs in net with the coaching staff taking a “win and you’re in” mentality. The problem is, they are both still playing a lot, which tells us no one is playing that great.

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