At the beginning of the year (pre-lockout), conventional wisdom said that the Edmonton Oilers would finish outside the playoff bubble once again. They praised their strength up front, but doubted their D and goaltending. Once the lockout was over, there were some who changed their tune. They thought that the youthful core of the Oilers playing in Oklahoma City would mean that they'd get off to a fast start that would carry them through the season. It looks like the first group was right: The Oilers are on the bottom fringe of the tightly packed Western Conference playoff picture, and have a -13 goals for/against differential. I don't expect that to improve tonight, either, because tonight marks the return of Jaroslav Halak to the Blues net. This will be his first start since March 10th. I'm pretty sure the Jaro Water is ready.
The Enemy: The Oilers have actually worked themselves back into the playoff picture. With about 18 games left in the season, only 6 points separate 3rd place Minnesota (36pts) from 12th place Nashville (30 pts). Edmonton has secured at least 1 point in each of their last 5 games (3-0-2), and find themselves just behind Nashville with 29 points. The playoffs are still within reach. Helping their cause is team points and goals leader Sam Gagner (12-16-28), currently riding a 5-game point streak of his own. Right behind are the youngsters Taylor Hall (6-20-26) and Jordan Eberle (7-13-20). The Oilers may also get Ryan Nugent-Hopkins back, who missed the previous game with the flu. It looks like he missed the morning skate, but keep watching around game time.
In net, the start is probably going to Devan Dubnyk. Aside from sounding like a Marvel comics character, he's put up a 2.71 GAA and .918 save percentage while going 8-9-6 for the Oil. The back up is old man Nikolai Khabibulin. His record is 2-2-1 with 2.12 GAA and .935 save percentage.
Final Verse: This is another late one, folks, so you might want to have a pre-game nap of your own. The puck drops at 9:00 St Louis time (that's 2AM in London, 3AM Stockholm and Amsterdam time). The GDT should drop shortly ahead of the puck. The TV broadcast is on FoxSports MW, and the radio call is on KMOX 1120AM. Until then, this is your pregame warmup. Gather here, marvel at the Edmonton lottery luck, consider what it would take to out-drink Khabibulin, and consider what the salary cap will do to Edmonton in a few years.
Here's a video that makes it a little harder to hate the kids on the Oilers....
Cabbie Presents - Valentine's Day with the Oilers Rookies (via NugentHopkins)