Blue Jackets-Oilers Preview
GAME: Columbus Blue Jackets (21-30-2) at Edmonton Oilers (28-18-6).
TIME: Thursday, 9 p.m. EST.
Both teams have winning streaks on the line as the Edmonton Oilers host the Columbus Blue Jackets at Rexall Place.
Edmonton is coming off an impressive road swing against Pacific Division teams. The Oilers claimed wins over the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes to move within five points of the first-place Calgary Flames in the Northwest Division.
The Oilers scored 15 goals in the three wins and closed the road trip Sunday with an improbable 4-3 shootout victory over the Coyotes.
Defenseman Chris Pronger scored on a one-timer from the point with three-tenths of a second left in regulation to force overtime. Marty Reasoner won a faceoff in the Phoenix zone with 2.2 seconds to go, and Fernando Pisani flicked the puck back to Pronger, who threaded his shot through traffic to score.
"It's a one-in-a-million play," Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said. "I have never seen it. In 25 years of hockey I have never seen anything like it."
Right wings Ales Hemsky and Radek Dvorak scored to give the Oilers the win in a shootout extended to six rounds.
The Oilers also are trying to snap a four-game losing strek at home, where they have won just 11 of 23 games. Edmonton, though, is tied for the league lead with 17 road wins.
Columbus travels to Edmonton with a four-game winning streak - tied for the longest in franchise history - after securing a 2-1 shootout win Wednesday over Calgary. Goalie Marc Denis stopped 36 shots and two more in the shootout to spark the surging Blue Jackets.
"I'm a big fan of the shootout right now because I'm 2-0 and I've stopped all five shots I've seen," said Denis, who stopped Calgary's Tony Amonte and Jarome Iginla. "I was glad I could face one of the best players in the NHL one-on-one to decide the game, that's a thrill right there."
The Blue Jackets also won four in a row from Nov. 9-16, 2000, in their first season in the league and again from March 21-27, 2004.
Denis has won five consecutive starts, and four of them have come against clubs vying for division leads - the New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks, Nashville Predators and the Flames.
Columbus has averaged 3.5 goals while winning nine of its last 12 games. The offensive outburst has increased its season average to 2.4 goals, still the lowest in the league.
David Vyborny has eight goals and eight assists in that span while Rick Nash has six goals and six assists and Sergei Fedorov has contributed 11 assists.
STANDINGS: Blue Jackets - 44 points, 3rd place, 31 PB, Central Division. Oilers - 62 points, 4th place, 5 PB, Northwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Blue Jackets - Nikolai Zherdev, 16 goals; Vyborny, 23 assists and 38 points; Jody Shelley, 107 PIM. Oilers - Ryan Smyth, 22 goals; Shawn Horcoff, 39 assists and 55 points; Jaroslav Spacek and Jason Smith, 72 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Blue Jackets - Power play: 15 percent (45 for 301), 26th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.8 percent (292 for 357), 17th. Oilers - Power play: 17.9 percent (59 for 329), 13th. Penalty killing: 83.1 percent (271 for 326), 13th.
GOALTENDERS: Blue Jackets - Denis (13-17-0, 1 SO, 3.27 GAA); Pascal Leclaire (5-10-2, 0, 3.69). Oilers - Mike Morrison (8-2-0, 0, 2.46); Jussi Markkanen (15-11-5, 0, 3.11).
SEASON SERIES: Oilers, 2-0.
LAST MEETING: Nov. 11; Oilers, 3-1. At Columbus, Ohio, the Oilers broke open a 1-1 tie with third-period goals from Pisani and Radek Dvorak while Markkanen made 29 saves.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Blue Jackets - 7-18-2 on the road; Oilers - 11-10-2 at home.