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Preview: Blue Jackets at Oilers

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

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The Blue Jackets welcomed one key part of their lineup back on Sunday...might they be line to welcome another?

Matt Calvert is with the Blue Jackets on this five-game road trip through Canada and last week, coach Todd Richards said the team has been targeting Tuesday or Wednesday for him to return. Calvert has not played since the first week of the season, and then underwent abdominal surgery that's kept him out for over a month. His return would be significant for the Blue Jackets, who dearly miss his tenacity on the forecheck and his secondary scoring element up front.

On the back end, Tim Erixon was recalled from Springfield on Sunday night and he is meeting the Jackets in snowy Edmonton. There is a strong possibility that he plays Tuesday against the Oilers, as Dalton Prout has been dealing with back spasms and the Jackets (prior to Erixon's call-up) didn't have an extra, healthy defenseman. 

Look for Sergei Bobrovsky to return to the net in Edmonton after a solid 29-save effort in the Jackets' 4-1 victory over the Senators. 

Both the Blue Jackets and Oilers enter Tuesday's game on the heels of timely victories.

Down 2-0 to provincial rival Calgary on Saturday night, the Oilers started a four-goal rally that stunned the Flames and their rowdy Scotiabank Saddledome crowd. Jordan Eberle got it started with a sick wrister from the slot (set up by Taylor Hall), and Ales Hemsky tied it up minutes later by batting a loose puck out of mid-air at the side of the net. David Perron, who like many of his teammates has been frustrated by a lack of scoring lately, scored the go-ahead goal from the icing line to put the Oilers ahead for the first time - and Edmonton was finally getting some breaks.

The Oilers' 4-2 win snapped a five-game losing streak and it was their first win since Nov. 5 in Florida. It came a few days after GM Craig MacTavish addressed the local media and offered his assessment of the Oilers' first 20 games, which had produced just four victories. Perhaps the most encouraging thing from Saturday's game for the Oilers was the performance of their young stars, who stepped up in a 2-0 hole and sparked a comeback that was desperately needed.

And with recent free-agent signing Ilya Bryzgalov now in the fold, things could get even more interesting.

Will the Oilers give Bryzgalov his first start on Tuesday night when the Blue Jackets come to town? Oilers coach Dallas Eakins hasn't yet ruled it out, but some in Edmonton believe Bryzgalov will debut for Edmonton on Thursday night against Florida. Regardless of who's between the pipes, the Blue Jackets have to build on Sunday's game in Ottawa and stick to what Todd Richards referred to as "Blue Jackets hockey."

There have been far too many Blue Jackets-Oilers games at Rexall Place that one could place in the "stinker" column - especially so in the last few years - and the Jackets have seen their share of multi-goal leads slip away in that barn. One of the keys to Tuesday's game is to do exactly what they did early on in Ottawa: play a "boring" road game, get the puck deep, go to work on the forecheck and win the special teams battle.

If they don't give the Oilers any momentum or anything to feel good about, the Blue Jackets will give themselves a chance to head to Calgary with two more points.



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