Carolina Hurricanes (8-17-4) at Edmonton Oilers (13-11-3)
Rexall Place 9:30 p.m. EST
TV: FS-Carolinas, TSN
There is a good chance that Carolina goes down a similar path to these Oilers that we're facing tonight. They have lost seven in a row, have already replaced their head coach, have some promising youth in the system and are on track for a top-five pick. The Oilers now have three top-level forward prospects on their team and appear to be finally making progress in their rebuild. There's been a lot of people who want the Canes to "Fail for Nail" and tank to get the number one pick because it's the only option but let's think about that for a minute. A team that gets the number one pick is not instantly going to become a contender the next year. It's going to take a couple more years like this before we're sitting pretty like the Capitals and Penguins are right now. Do I want this team to have success and rebuild through the draft? Absolutely, especially when we play in a smaller market but sitting through another couple of seasons like this is going to become grating on the fanbase. This is something that I'll look at more closely in the future but I've been wondering for awhile if the Canes will follow the same path as their opponent's tonight.
Lines, analysis & more after the jump
Ruutu - Staal - Skinner
Ponikarovsky - Jokinen - LaRose
Tlusty - Sutter - Dwyer
Stewart - Brent - Nodl
Gleason - Allen
McBain - Joslin
Faulk - Kaberle
Smyth - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle
Gagner - Horcoff - Hemsky
Paajarvi - Belanger - Jones
Eager - Lander - Petrell
Smid - Gilbert
Whitney - Petry
Peckham - Sutton
Getting to know the Oilers
Many people wondered if the Oilers hot start was just smoke & morriors (it was really an unsustainable save percentage from Nikolai Khabibulin), and now that they have won only 4 of their last 10, everyone seems to think that thought was correct. Despite the recent cold streak, the Oilers are a much better team possession-wise than they were last year. Their Fenwick has climbed to 52.5% with the score tied and they have been able to stay competitive in most of their games. Much of this has to do with coach Tom Renney doing a fantastic job at matching lines.
The most popular thing in Edmonton right now is how well their younger players are performing and Renney has made sure that guys like Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent Hopkins and Jordan Eberle have gotten the easiest zone starts on the team. The strategy is working as Eberle and RNH are leading the team in scoring and are killing it territorially. Joining them tonight on the first line for the injured Hall is Ryan Smyth who has been getting the short end of the zone starts (46.1% OZone) but is third on the team in scoring and has a respectable corsi percentage with the score tied. Look out to see what he can do on the top line. A player who is producing in a similar fashion is Ryan Jones who has nine goals, a 48.8% corsi rate and is starting only 37.7% of his draws in the offensive zone. It's a wonderful turn around from how he was last season and one of the reasons why the Oilers have been successful early in the year. That and Khabibulin has a horseshoe up his ass with a .936 even strength save percentage. This is why I've given up on predicting goal-tending.
- Last night was the first time the Hurricanes franchise scored six goals and lost the game since 1993 when they were the Hartford Whalers. Like I said, this is what it's like when two teams with bad defenses collide.
- We may see a repat of that tonight as the Oilers defense is very young and inexperienced and there's not too many guys in the lineup tonight who have been performing well this year aside from Smid, Petry and Gilbert. It's a shame this game isn't at home because we could have a hell of a matchup against Peckham and Sutton if that were the case but I'm sure Renney will protect the hell out of both of them.
- I truly have no idea if the lines I posted for the Hurricanes are correct because Kirk Muller has kept things a secret when it comes to how the lineup looks. We might see seven defensemen active again if Joni Pitkanen is not too shaken up from last night (left in second period w/ injury) or we could see Andreas Nodl inserted back into the lineup. Hell, we might even see Timmy Brent on the first line because he played well there last night. It's all a mystery with Muller, but I think that's part of the fun of being a coach.
- No word on if Ward will get another start tonight or if Mike Murphy will get the nod instead. I do know that Devan Dubnyk has been confirmed as the starter for Edmonton and I'm pretty sure this is his first start against Carolina.
- Don't look now but Eric Staal has seven points in his last five games and is now second on the team in scoring. I'm not sure if he'll take over Skinner for the team lead any time soon but I wouldn't be surprised if it happens some time this year.
- Another thing I didn't mention about Smyth is his on-ice shooting percentage is above 15%. That has to wear off at sometime, right?
- Tomas Kaberle is coming off one of his best games as a Hurricane (the standard is low) but I really hope that he can put together more performances like that so the signing doesn't look like a total bust. That and it will increase the team's chances of getting something of value for him at the deadline.
- More fun with shooting percentages and PDO, a reason for Jussi Jokinen's decline is that he was getting more luck than anyone else on the team. Ever since he came back from injury, his PDO has been slowly declining along with his shooting percentage. However, he was also posting strong underlying numbers and those have disappeared now too.
- If we do snap the losing streak, I do think Edmonton is an appropriate team to break it against.
Enjoy the game.
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