Remember 7-1-0? We do, but it is becoming a distant memory after a recent 1-3-1 stretch by the Edmonton Oilers. The club is struggling mightily in games they should be winning against rebuilding clubs like the Red Wings, Wild and Blackhawks. Edmonton is still in playoff position, but this is getting really tight really quick.
Tonight, the Oilers resume a three-game road trip with their only visit to Columbus of the season. This is the first of two meetings between the sides, who will conclude the season series on March 7th, 2020 at Rogers Place.
Mike Smith gets the start for the Oilers, while Joonas Korpisalo gets the nod for the Blue Jackets.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: I’m going to throw a radical idea out there for the Oilers. Show up on time. Edmonton has slept through the first period in each of their five games in this rough stretch. That won’t cut it. You cannot keep playing from behind on a nightly basis in this league. Come ready to play or risk dropping your fifth out of six.
Columbus: Clutch, grab, hack, whack, do whatever you have to do to slow down the deadly duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. If you make tonight difficult for them, after they both played 26 minutes last night, they could accept that this just isn’t their night. It’s human nature to be tired and not meet the task at hand. That’s a risk for the duo if the Jackets play them hard right off the hop.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Jujhar Khaira, without question, played his best game of the season last night. A lot of people lost their minds when he got elevated to play with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and I understand why. Khaira has legit chemistry with RNH, and looked energized last night. I expect this line has an impact on this game.
Columbus: Seth Jones is one of the best defensemen in the NHL, and will likely be tasked with handling the McDavid line tonight. I’m really interested to see these two young stars matchup head-to-head. Jones is a fun player to watch.
Joel Persson, recovering from a concussion, is back from injury and will return to the lineup tonight. As a result, Brandon Manning will join William Lagesson and Markus Granlund in the pressbox.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Leon Draisaitl – Connor McDavid – Zack Kassian
Jujhar Khaira – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Sam Gagner
James Neal – Gaetan Haas – Alex Chiasson
Tomas Jurco – Riley Sheahan – Patrick Russell
Darnell Nurse – Ethan Bear
Oscar Klefbom – Joel Persson
Kris Russell – Matt Benning
Obviously, these Blue Jackets are vastly different than the club that won a playoff series a year ago. Gone are Matt Duchene, Artemi Panarin and Sergei Bobrovsky. Ditto Ryan Dzingel. Gustav Nyquist is the big new addition for the club to fill some of the holes.
Columbus Blue Jackets Lines:
Nick Foligno – Pierre-Luc Dubois – Cam Atkinson
Gustav Nyquist – Alexander Wennberg – Oliver Bjorkstrand
Sonny Milano – Boone Jenner – Josh Anderson
Jakob Lilja – Riley Nash – Emil Bemstrom
Zach Werenski – Seth Jones
Markus Nutivaara – David Savard
Vladislav Gavrikov – Dean Kukan
Think the first goal doesn’t matter? The Oilers are 5-0-0 this season when they score first. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Oilers have scored first just once in their last five games. That came against Washington last Thursday night. Guess what? That was their only win in the stretch.
The Oilers dominated this series a season ago. They outscored the Blue Jackets 8-1 over the course of the two games, and blanked the Jackets 4-0 in their only trip to Ohio. Mikko Koskinen was the victor in both games. He started and suffered his first loss of the season last night in Detroit.
This is the first of seven back-to-back sets for the Oilers this season. The schedule has been largely favorable to this point, with tonight being the first time that the cards are stacked against them. They’ll need a desperate effort as a result.