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Oilers, Jackets set to conclude season series

by Corey Masisak
OILERS (30-36-9) at BLUE JACKETS (24-43-7)

: SNET-West (HD), FS-Ohio (HD)

Last 10: Edmonton 5-2-3; Columbus 5-5-0.

Season Series: The Oilers have two of the first three meetings between the clubs this season, including a 3-0 victory 11 days ago at Rexall Place.

Big Story: The two teams at the bottom of the NHL standings meet, and both have been playing better of late after struggling in the middle of the campaign.

Team Scope:

Oilers: Edmonton has collected at least a point in six straight games (4-0-2). It is the first time the Oilers have accomplished that since winning six straight in late October. The Oilers' run of success has closed the gap on the team's above them in the NHL standings -- they moved to within two points of Montreal and the New York Islanders after winning Friday night at Florida in a shootout.

"In a convoluted kind of way, you want to have the guys experience this kind of stretch and have them realize how much they dislike missing the playoffs and how hard they have to play (next year)," Oilers coach Tom Renney said.

Blue Jackets: The Blue Jackets did not win more than four games in any of the first four calendar months of the season. Well, they won five times in February (5-7-1) and have already reached a season-high six victories in March. It might not seem like a big deal, but the Blue Jackets are 11-12-1 since the start of February, and a couple of young players have been critical to the team's climb toward respectability.

Center Derick Brassard had a terrible start to the season, and had only 16 points in 42 games played (and several nights as a healthy scratch) at the end of January, but he's got 19 points in the past 24 contests. Goaltender Steve Mason was a disaster at the start of this season, but he is 6-2-0 in March and has allowed two goals or less in each of the six wins. He's also sporting a .938 save percentage this month.

Who's Hot: Rookie center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has six points in the past six games for Edmonton and 12 points in the 15 games he has played since returning from a shoulder injury. Columbus defenseman has five points in the past four games and nine points in March.

Injury Report: Nugent-Hopkins' typical linemate Taylor Hall is out with a concussion for Edmonton. Oilers forward Lennart Petrell (groin) is considered day-to-day. Columbus is without defensemen Fedor Tyutin (hand), Marc Methot (jaw) and Radek Martinek (concussion), forwards Kristian Huselius (lower body) and Derek MacKenzie (concussion) and goaltender Curtis Sanford (leg).

Stat Pack: Edmonton goaltender Devan Dubnyk is 14-8-2 in 2012. He's also 11-6-1 with a .919 save percentage and 2.48 goals against average since the All-Star break. Columbus forward Rick Nash is fifth in the League in shots on goal with 274 and has 60 takeaways -- he's only player in the top 15 in shots on goal with that many takeaways.

Puck Drop: Nugent-Hopkins missed 20 games with a shoulder injury, but he has chased down the other top two contenders for the Calder Trophy, Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog and New Jersey's Adam Henrique, in the rookie points race. All three had 47 points as of Friday night, though Landeskog had 21 more games played and Henrique had 12. At his pace this season, Nugent-Hopkins would have 24 goals and 64 points in 76 games.

No Edmonton player has won the Calder Memorial Trophy in franchise history, but Nugent-Hopkins has a chance to be the first.

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