34 points in 32 games. That’s how many Sam Gagner has, career vs. the Avalanche, and why he has the blessing of being in the perennial Avalanche game day pic. Sam Gagner always seems to come alive vs. the Avalanche (his best opponent) and the Oilers generally have good success vs. them too. They are 2-1-0 vs. them so far this year, with the last one being a 6-4 win.
The Avalanche will be a much better team tonight, however, because, unlike the last game, they’ll have Ryan O’Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog, Erik Johnson and Ryan Wilson back in the lineup. Some of you may recall we just set a franchise record in this last game vs. the Avalanche in which we peppered Varlamov with 56 shots on goal. The return of some decent talent should help their cause.
I’d imagine after a big win in Chicago there won’t be much of a lineup change, if any… perhaps Ryan Jones will slot back in. I don’t see much else for change.
Steve Smith mentioned that the reason the Oilers juggled their d-pairings was because Justin Schultz was starting to show some fatigue. This is to be expected, as this is getting to that extended-season point for him, having played College for a while where they have a rather short season (often under 40 games played). Justin Schultz has already racked up 59 games played so far this season. I’d imagine in College he played a lot of minutes, but he’s played 22:23 of ice time per game on average, which puts him 1st overall in average ice time for Oilers. He’s eating up the ice time, and it’s expected he will tire a bit. He’ll adjust to this much longer schedule though down the road.
I would assume Devan Dubnyk will start in this one again. He was relieved by Yann Danis in the last game after Teemu Hartikainen crashed into him. Dubnyk had his neck cranked hard on the play and had a bit of a stinger going. The Oilers took him out for precautionary reasons even though he could have gone. This I like to hear… the Oilers are a bottom feeding team again.. no need to risk worse injury. On that note, they are also playing it safe with Mark Fistric who probably could be back today. They at least will be able to delay a roster cut decision at least another game while Fistric sits. Hopefully no one is added to the sick bay after today.
I predict a much better game for the Avalanche this time around.. could be a tough one. Which Oilers team will we see? Who knows. I would bet money that it will be the good one though.
OILERS LINES (Guessed..)
Hall – Horcoff – Hemsky
Jones – Nuge – Eberle
Paajarvi – Gagner – Yakupov
Brown – Smyth – Petrell
Smid – J.Schultz
Whitney – Petry
N. Schultz – Potter