Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Oilers Game Day Preview

The Bluejackets invade Rexall Place in Edmonton tonight in another one of those games against a close rival for playoff positioning. Howson returns to his former club, while Hitch returns to his birthplace.

The Oilers and Jackets are two clubs in similar situations. Edmonton has 49 points in 45 games, while the CBJ have 48. Both clubs are extolling the virtues of coming together as a club, and developing some chemistry. Though the Jackets have been bitten more seriously by the injury bug, Alex Hemsky returned from injury to score 2 goals for the Oilers in their 6 - 3 victory over Phoenix, a win that took advantage of the positive energy generated by the retirement of Glenn Anderson's #9. Ethan Moreau notched a hat trick for the Oilers in that contest.

Both clubs have won 4 of their last 5. Edmonton and Columbus rank 17 and 22, respectively in Goals Scored. Columbus has a significant edge in Goals Against, ranking 8th in the NHL, compared to Edmonton's 21st. Edmonton beats out Columbus on the power play, ranking 16th, while Columbus remains last, though improvement has been shown in recent games. The converse is true for the PK, where Columbus ranks 19th, and Edmonton trails, ranking 28th.

In net, Edmonton will go with 39 year old Duan Roloson, who sports a 2.72 GAA and .914 save percentage. Mase now sits at 1.91 GAA .932 save percentage.

The numbers say that the CBJ have a distinct advantage 5 vs 5. The +/- leader for the Oilers is at +7, while the CBJ have several players in double digits, led by Jan Hejda's gaudy +18. Edmonton boasts 7 active players with 10+ goals, but none over 12. The Jackets need to watch Edmonton's defensive corps jumping up on the play. Sheldon Souray is tied for the team lead with 10 goals, and is second with 31 points. Lubomir Visnovsky is not far behind with 27 points.

The CBJ might have some emotion going for themselves tonight, due to the ties that Hitch and Howson have, and Raffi Torres returning to Rexall place for the first time since his trade. They are also looking to clinch their second consecutive winning road trip and move back into 8th place in the West. The CBJ are 6 - 1 vs Canadian teams this year, but the lone loss came to Edmonton.

After a Wild,Wild West affair in Vancover, look for a return to Hitch-Hockey tonight. Strong forechecking, neutral zone pressure and keeping Edmonton to the perimeter. At the same time, we need to take advantage of Edmonton's defense. Put lots of rubber on Roloson early, possess the puck, stay out of the box, and take advantage of the 3rd worst PK in the league.

Guaranteed to be an interesting match between 2 clubs with lots to play for. Go Jackets!


Rick said...

Definately hope to see the return of Hitch hockey. It's a homecoming that I hope the Jackets can win by playing their game. Howson, Hitch, Torres, Peca, Hejda... all, I'm sure, want to beat the old team. To use the words of our favorite coach, we need to play a "weighty" game.

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