OILERS (2-4-1) at BLUE JACKETS (5-3-0)
TV: SNET-EDM (HD), FS-O (HD)
First of four meetings this season. Edmonton took the opening matchup on the 2009-10 slate, then Columbus won the next three. Kristian Huselius
of the Blue Jackets led all scorers in the series with 4 goals and teammate Antoine Vermette
added 3 goals. Dustin Penner finished with 3 goals to lead the Oilers.
The two teams that finished with the fewest points in the Western Conference last season have gotten off to different starts in their quests to turn things around. Columbus has won its last two and is hanging right in there in an extremely competitive Central Division. Edmonton started the season with consecutive victories but enters Thursday on an 0-4-1 skid.
There were some encouraging signs in Edmonton's 5-4 shootout loss to Calgary on Tuesday. For one, the Oilers earned a point, their first in five games. They salvaged it by rallying from a 4-1 deficit on the road, also a positive. And two of their prized rookies, Jordan Eberle
and Magnus Paajarvi
, scored goals to help bring them back. Defensemen Kurtis Foster and Tom Gilbert
"It shows a lot of heart coming back like that in the third against a good team in a tough building," defenseman Jason Strudwick said Wednesday. "I think we understand we want to start like that if we can and really put pressure on them. When we're aggressive and we're on our toes, we're a difficult team to play against because of our speed."
This is the conclusion of a three-game homestand for Columbus. While the Blue Jackets have won four of five overall, they've been inconsistent at Nationwide Arena, allowing a combined 11 goals in losses to the Blackhawks and Flames. Their defensive game was much better Monday when they edged the Flyers, 2-1, with Kyle Wilson scoring his first NHL goal and Mathieu Garon making 28 saves.
"The guys were always in a good spot, taking care of rebounds," said Garon, 2-0 with a 1.50 goals-against average while filling in for Steve Mason
. "We didn't give up many 2-on-1s or 3-on-2s. We played a solid game as a team defensively. That's how we want to play."
Who's Hot: Ryan Whitney
leads the Oilers with 8 points -- all assists -- and has 6 assists during a four-game points streak. Eberle has goals in consecutive games. … Derick Brassard
has goals in two straight for the Blue Jackets, including the decisive score against the Flyers. Marc Methot
has 4 assists during a three-game points streak.
Foster is day-to-day for Edmonton with a groin injury, while forward Jean-Francois Jacques is on injured reserve recovering from back surgery.
Columbus forward Ethan Moreau, the former captain of the Oilers, is expected to miss 4-6 weeks following surgery recently on his right hand. Huselius and defenseman Kris Russell
are day-to-day with lower-body injuries. Forward Andrew Murray (knee) and defenseman Mike Commodore (hand) are on injured reserve.
The Oilers rank last in the League in penalty killing at 65.6 percent. … Umberger skated in his 400th NHL game on Monday -- the first 228 he played were for the Blue Jackets' opponent that night, the Flyers.
Puck Drop: Taylor Hall
, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 Entry Draft by Edmonton, is still looking for his first goal and has just a lone assist through seven games. While the pressure may be mounting, he continues to say all the right things.
"I'm trying the best I can, but at the same time, it's more about the team than my goal slump. I thought we played well in the third period last night. If we keep that going, everyone's going to have individual success," he said Wednesday.
"I'm getting a little bit antsy but at the same time, it's a process -- my NHL career is pretty young right now and there's only been seven games. Everybody goes through tough times, but it's how you come out of it. It's what you do to get yourself out of that slump and make yourself a better player that makes you a little bit stronger in the end."