|The Edmonton Oilers’ stunning decline through the standings is not purely performance-based, but head coach Tom Renney is not one to foster excuses in the face of adversity. After flying out of the gate and climbing to the top of the Western Conference standings with a 8-2-2 record as November opened, the young Oilers looked to be realizing the potential of a star-studded cast of rookies and burgeoning sophomores. |
But it has been tough sledding for the Oilers since the holidays hit and the wins have been hard to come by. They’ve fallen six games below .500 and into 13th place in the conference – just a single point ahead of the Anaheim Ducks, who have picked up their play in 2012. Just when things appeared to be looking up and the Oilers got top defenseman Ryan Whitney back in the lineup, the injury bug reared its ugly head once more. Whitney is now back on the shelf, and has since been joined by teammates Jordan Eberle, leading rookie scorer Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Cam Barker and Tom Gilbert. The latter two have played top-four minutes on the Edmonton blue line and their losses have devastated an already-inexperienced defense corps.
One player who has been fortunate to survive the rash of injuries is Taylor Hall. The 20-year-old has some extra pressure on his plate now that so many teammates are out of the lineup, but he’s shown the ability to step up when called upon. He scored a beautiful overtime winner vs. the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday night, burying a behind-the-back feed from captain Shawn Horcoff. He’s got 16 goals in 36 games thus far in his second season and has been one of the most consistent Oilers this year.
The Oilers have been fortunate to remain healthy in goal all season long, and though the numbers aren’t as flashy as they were earlier this year, Nikolai Khabibulin has kept them in a lot of games. His 2.41 goals-against average and .919 save percentage are proof that the 39-year-old goaltender isn’t prepared to wind down his career just yet.
| || || |
|Nash (16) ||Eberle (17) |
|Prospal (21) ||Eberle (26) |
|Nash (31) ||Eberle (43) |
|Dorsett (105) ||Peckham (72) |
|MacKenzie (+6) ||Barker (+3) |
|Sanford (7-10-3) |
|Niemi (19-7-5) |
|Sanford (2.56) ||Niemi (2.26) |
|Sanford (.912) ||Niemi (.920) || |
|• The homestand continues with tonight’s game against Edmonton and will wrap up with a home tilt Thursday against Central Division rival Nashville. The Blue Jackets have gone 2-3-0 its last five games after going 1-7-1 its previous nine games. The club also is in a stretch where it will play seven games in the span of 12 days. |
• Rick Nash has goals in three of the last four games after scoring his team leading 16th of the season this past Saturday against San Jose. He has scored 12 goals the last 25 games after being held to four goals the first 19 games of the season. He also has 12-7-19 the last 26 games after being held to 1-3-4 the previous 10 games. He leads the team in shots with 171, ranking third in the NHL.
• Tonight marks second of four meetings overall and first of two meetings at Nationwide Arena this season between the Blue Jackets and Oilers. Columbus is 13-22-6 all-time against Edmonton, including a 8-8-4 mark at Nationwide Arena. The Jackets have won the last four meetings at Nationwide Arena.
• Derek Dorsett has assists in two of the last four games after registering an assist Jan. 13 vs. Phoenix. He had gone the previous 16 games without an assist. He has 6-4-10 the last 29 games after being held to 1-0-1 the first 13 games of the season. He also has five goals the last 20 games after being held to two goals the first 22 games of the season.