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Jackets try to keep rolling vs. Oilers

by John Kreiser
OILERS (15-28-8) at BLUE JACKETS (24-22-5)

TV -- CBC (HD); FS-Ohio (West)

Last 10 -- Edmonton 2-7-1; Columbus 4-4-2

Season series -- It's the third of four meetings between the Western Conference rivals. They've split the first two, with the Jackets winning 3-2 in a shootout at home on Oct. 28 and the Oilers rolling to a 6-3 win in Edmonton on Dec. 16.

Big story -- The Oilers are the only team out of the Western Conference playoff race, and the Blue Jackets are trying not to join them. Columbus is back home after winning a game it had to have -- a 3-0 victory at Detroit on Friday night. The Jackets are still 14th in the West, but are just six points behind Minnesota and Phoenix, who hold down the last two playoff berths.

Team Scope:

Oilers -- Taylor Hall, the No. 1 pick in the Entry Draft last June, continues to impress. He scored his 17th goal of the season in Friday's 5-3 loss at St. Louis and will be returning to the site of his first NHL goal.

The newly-formed line of Andrew Cogliano, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, back after missing a month with an ankle injury, generated two goals that turned a 4-1 deficit into a one-goal game.

"We played well," Hall told the Edmonton Sun. "Cogs is really good in his own end and for a player coming back and missing 13 games Ebs was one of our best players out there."

Blue Jackets -- If the Jackets are going to mount any kind of a playoff run, they've got to have Steve Mason play the way he did against the Wings. Mason looked like the goaltender who won the Calder Trophy in 2008-09, stopping all 34 Detroit shots for his second shutout of the season and the third of his career against the Jackets' bête noir.

Mason said he got plenty of help against a team that's made life miserable for the Jackets throughout their 10 NHL seasons.

"Our backcheck, especially in the third period, did a good job and took away their forecheck," he said "And that took away the momentum they were trying to build."

Who's hot -- Hall has 3 goals and 5 points in the Oilers' last five games. He and Dustin Penner share the team lead with 32 points. … Columbus captain Rick Nash had his nine-game point-scoring streak snapped on Friday but has 14 points in his last 10 games.

Injury report -- The Oilers' best defenseman, Ryan Whitney, is out for the season after ankle surgery. Forward Gilbert Brule has missed 12 games with an illness, but Jordan Eberle returned Friday after missing time with an ankle injury and an appendectomy. … Columbus has been without forward Ethan Moreau (ribs), and defenseman Rostislav Klesla has missed the Jackets' last three games with a lower-body injury. 2009 first-rounder John Moore could make his debut in Klesla's place on Saturday.

Stat pack -- The Oilers have lost nine games in regulation when outshooting their opponent, including Friday at St. Louis. When doing so, they are 2-9-2. … The Oilers are last in both power-play percentage (12.3 percent) and on the penalty kill (73.3 percent).

Puck drop -- The season continues to be a nightmare for Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who figures to get the start after Devan Dubnyk played Friday. He made 37 saves in the win against Columbus on Dec. 16, but has lost 12 in a row since then. Khabibulin is 8-23-2 with a 3.44 goals-against average this season; not surprisingly, the Oilers are last in the NHL with 176 goals allowed.

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