BLUE JACKETS (31-24-7) at OILERS (21-35-8)
TV -- FS-Ohio (HD), SNET-W (HD)
Last 10 --
Columbus 6-2-2; Edmonton 5-5-0
Season series --
Fourth and final meeting of the regular season. The home team has won each of the first three matchups. Kristian Huselius
of the Blue Jackets has 5 goals to lead all scorers, including a hat trick on Dec. 16 in a game the Oilers won by a 6-3 score. He added a pair, with the second goal proving decisive, in a 4-3 victory for Columbus on Feb. 5. Edmonton is led by rookies Taylor Hall
and Linus Omark
, who have 1 goal and 5 points apiece.
Big story --
The Blue Jackets have been coming on strong, with eight wins in their last 12 games and single points coming from two of the losses, but will it be enough? They're still five points out of a Western Conference playoff berth entering Thursday, so this game is one they can't afford to let slip away.
Blue Jackets --
This stop in Edmonton marks the midway point on a potentially season-defining five-game road trip for Columbus. The first two games have been one-goal affairs that didn't go the Blue Jackets' way, although they did manage to gain a point out of Wednesday's 2-1 shootout loss to the Canucks. Successful attempts by Rick Nash
and Antoine Vermette
had them one save away from the win on two occasions, but Vancouver extended the penalty-shot tiebreaker each time and finally prevailed in the eighth round.
"It would be nice to finish that off with both points, but I thought we played a heck of a hockey game against a real good team in a tough building," coach Scott Arniel said.
He's been the forgotten man for most of this season, but veteran goalie Martin Gerber continues to make the most of the few opportunities he's been given. Recalled from the AHL with Nikolai Khabibulin
sidelined, Gerber started against Nashville on Wednesday and made 34 saves during regulation and overtime before also denying three of four shootout attempts in a 2-1 Edmonton victory. Omark showed off his shootout prowess again with the decisive goal, going five-hole on Pekka Rinne.
"He's a sneaky [guy] on the shootout, that's for sure," Gerber said. "He has a really good eye, really good timing. It's not the first time I saw him do that. He did it yesterday in practice and it worked."
Who's hot --
Scottie Upshall scored the only goal for the Blue Jackets in his debut after being acquired via trade from the Coyotes. It was his 17th of the season, placing him third on the team behind Nash and RJ Umberger
Injury report --
Columbus defenseman Anton Stralman is expected to miss 3-4 weeks with a knee injury. Huselius (lower body) and fellow forward Derick Brassard
(hand) are on injured reserve. … Edmonton defenseman Theo Peckham
is day-to-day with concussion-like symptoms. Khabibulin (eye infection) and defensemen Taylor Chorney
(knee) and Ryan Whitney
(ankle) are on injured reserve.
Stat pack --
Nash is one goal shy of reaching 30 for the sixth time in seven seasons. … Gilbert Brule
had a team-leading six of the Oilers' 34 hits against the Predators.
Puck drop --
In three appearances this season, the first two coming back in November, Gerber is 3-0-0 with a 1.30 goals-against average and .958 save percentage. Being out of the race, Edmonton will want to give plenty of action down the stretch to the young Devan Dubnyk
, but Gerber can't be ignored for the occasional spot start if Khabibulin isn't back soon.