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Blue Jackets, Oilers look to build off recent play

by Brian Hunter
OILERS (17-23-4) at BLUE JACKETS (12-27-5)


Last 10:
Edmonton 2-7-1; Columbus 3-6-1

Season Series: Second of four meetings. The Oilers doubled up the Blue Jackets 6-3 on Dec. 2 in Edmonton, as Ryan Jones recorded his first career hat trick during a five-goal rally in the third period. Derek Dorsett scored twice for Columbus, including a shorthanded goal.

Big Story:
Neither team has received the goaltending it's needed this season, which is why both are currently double-digit points out of the playoff race. As a result, changes may be coming. In Edmonton, Nikolai Khabibulin has cooled off significantly after a fast start and young Devan Dubnyk is poised to get a longer look down the stretch. Columbus, meanwhile, has the promising Mark Dekanich rehabbing from injury in the AHL and he could soon be up with the big club with Steve Mason still struggling and Curtis Sanford not the long-term answer.

Team Scope:

After starting a three-game homestand with a hard-fought overtime game against New Jersey that didn't go its way and then getting smoked by Anaheim to lose its fifth in a row, Edmonton was badly in need of two points Sunday against Los Angeles. The Oilers were forced to grit this one out, as Josh Green's power-play goal in the first period was answered by Justin Williams in the third. But on this occasion, extra time went in their favor as Taylor Hall capitalized on a Williams high-sticking penalty to score at 3:06 and give the Oilers a 2-1 win.

"If you look at the last few weeks, the one player that has answered the bell every night is Taylor," coach Tom Renney said. "If you want to know what passion looks like in a hockey player, watch Taylor Hall. I'm not sure you can teach it. It might be part of your DNA. But I am glad he's got it."

Blue Jackets:
This will be Todd Richards' fourth game as interim coach, and he can be encouraged by the way Columbus has played halfway through a four-game homestand. After edging the Coyotes for Richards' first win with the team, the Blue Jackets took the Sharks down to the wire in a 2-1 loss on Saturday. Trailing by a goal entering the third period, they drew even just over six minutes in thanks to captain Rick Nash. But before they could get to overtime and earn at least a point, Patrick Marleau scored off a rebound for San Jose with 2:57 remaining.

"I'm disappointed with the result, losing a game, but happy with the way the guys played," Richards said. "We had to overcome a lot of obstacles in the game. Having played last night and coming off an emotional and physically draining win, when we needed the push in the third we got as much as we could. Unfortunately, they made one more play than we did."

Who's Hot:
Hall has scored a goal in six of the Oilers' last nine games. … Nash has 4 goals in as many games for the Blue Jackets.

Injury Report: Edmonton is playing without its two leading scorers, Jordan Eberle (knee) and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder), each of whom is expected to miss several weeks. Also out are defenseman Cam Barker (ankle), Ryan Whitney (ankle), Alex Plante (concussion) and Tom Gilbert (knee). Forward Eric Belanger (leg) is day-to-day. … Columbus forward RJ Umberger is out indefinitely with concussion-like symptoms. Forwards Jeff Carter (shoulder), Mark Letestu (hand) and Kristian Huselius (groin) and defensemen Radek Martinek (concussion) and James Wisniewski (ankle) are on injured reserve.

Stat Pack:
Green's goal was his first in more than five years. The 34-year-old, who has 36 goals in 339 career games for eight teams -- including a career-high 10 during an earlier stint with the Oilers in 2001-02 -- had last lit the lamp on Jan. 16, 2007 for the Canucks. … Sanford has a 2.36 goals-against average and .936 save percentage in his last three starts at Nationwide Arena.

Puck Drop:
Edmonton defenseman Ladislav Smid tends to fly under the radar, but with 100 blocked shots this season he's one of only eight NHL players to have reached the century mark in that category.
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