The Oilers face the Blackhawks again tonight for the second time on this grueling road trip. This, thankfully, is the second last game of the road trip. In the first game of this road trip, the Oilers managed to take the Blackhawks to overtime in a game that probably looked closer on the scoresheet than it really was. The Oilers were outworked in this one, much like the rest of the road trip. But the Blackhawks are one hell of a team this year, as we all know. So I don’t feel too bad about that one. The game vs. Dallas, the Oilers were quite good, however (although this also was probably closer than the score led on). I have hopes that they can return to that form tonight.
The Oilers should have a boost tonight. They get 3 players back from injury: Ales Hemsky, Teemu Hartikainen and Shawn Horcoff. Horcoff should provide a bit boost to this team, as even the haters are starting to realize what he brings to the table. He also held an all players meeting with the team to rally the troops. So let’s hope that works. A lot of people who seem to know everything about everything (especially the things they can’t even see) have questioned Horcoff’s leadership. Here are some fine, recent quotes from players in support of Horcoff:
“You see what he brings when he’s out. He’s a guy who does everything so well and he really is an emotional leader for this team with his worth ethic and his compete,” said Sam Gagner. “He competes and battles better than anybody. We’ve missed him.”
“It’s really unfortunate,” said Gagner. “You can’t just look at numbers and jump to a conclusion. The way Horc plays, he lifts everyone on our team. At the end of the day, you have to play the way he plays if you’re going to expect to win in this league. He battles for loose pucks, he wins those battles. He’s in the right position all the time.”
“He wears the C for a reason,” said Ryan Jones. “It’s funny. When I first came here, I didn’t realize how much grief he got and I never really understood it. He’s the first guy in the locker room, the last guy to leave. He’s the hardest working guy on this team.” (this one to me is embarrassing… our fans are the laughing stock of the NHLPA, I’m sure)
I can dig deeper.. these are new quotes.. but really, there is zero indication that any leadership issue here. That said, there are some mighty stupid fans here that do everything from blaming our standings on Devan Dubnyk (since apparently it’s now a goalie’s job to score goals / shoot the puck) to the 4th coach in 5 years, to pretty much everything. My advice is to shut your french fry hole and go back to whatever it is you do when it’s game time. I would currently trade this city’s fans for Nashville fans. At least the ones that are the loudest there support the team. This team is frustrating to watch right now, but throwing guesses out there as to what is the problem and ragging on players is counterproductive and likely to get even worse results. I believe I’m preaching to the choir in these parts, however.
Moving on! Sounds like the lines will be shuffled today, again. Bob Stauffer had a guess at what the lines would be, so I’ve put them below.
OILERS LINES (Guessed..)
Hall – Horcoff – Hemsky
Hartikainen – Nuge – Eberle
Paajarvi – Gagner – Yakupov
Brown – Smyth – Petrell/Jones
Smid – J.Schultz
Whitney – Petry
N. Schultz – Potter