So the Oilers get another shot at the Stars tonight. They lost the first game vs. them last Wednesday in overtime, 3-2 when Jaromir Jagr caught Ryan Whitney flat footed (I’m sure there’s a pun in there somewhere).
Tonight I imagine we’ll go back to “regular” lines, but I think for the first night we’re going to see Ryan Smyth sit. He has slipped a bit lately and in his last couple of games has racked up several penalties… enough to put him 1 minute behind Ladislav Smid for the team lead. The Oilers liked Chris Vande Velde’s play in the game vs. Detroit, so I think he’ll slot in. That should mean too that Hordichuk will get sent down to the Barons, should he (likely) clear waivers.
The Oilers changed up the lines in hopes of spreading the offense while on the road, in order to catch teams’ third line pairing against one or more of our better offensive players. I’m not sure I would really say it worked very well. Detroit was a fairly close game that the Oilers probably could have won, but didn’t. However against Columbus, the worst team in the West, standings-wise at the time, the Oilers barely squeaked out a win. In fact, they were outplayed and shouldn’t have won that one. Luckily Dubnyk was up to the task and stole the win. In Detroit, the Oilers were a fair bit better, but Khabibulin also had to really stand on his head to in order to keep the Oilers in the game. I can understand struggling against a good team like Detroit, but there is no excuse for poor play vs. a bottom feeding team. Yes, the Oilers won, but they shouldn’t be very proud of that win.
The Oilers now go on a 5 game home skid, so hopefully this will give them a boost in both confidence, but on the standings. A win tonight could bump the Oilers as high as 6th place, depending on outcomes of other games. At the very least, they will move ahead of Dallas in the standings, at least for now. It’s a tight race and every point is going to be important from here on out.
Edit: Line up is fairly confirmed now… Smyth and Whitney will be scratches tonight. Whitney is clearly unhappy with being a scratch again, but not in a defiant way.. more in the way you’d expect a guy to be upset. He stated he thinks he might be on the outs though, but doesn’t want to be traded. I think there’s a good chance he’ll be on a new team before the 2012/13 trade deadline (3PM ET April 3rd, in this shortened season). Best quote of Krueger’s pre-game interview.. cold, but true: “As we get better as an organization, there will be players who don’t meet our expectations anymore.”
OILERS LINES (PROJECTED)
Hall – Nuge – Eberle
Yakupov – Gagner – Hemsky
Hartikainen – Belanger – Paajarvi
Eager – Vande Velde – Petrell
Smid – Potter
N. Schultz – J. Schultz
Fistric – Petry