Arise, Edmonton! May your young stars shine for all to see!
For the glory of Lord Stanley will be your crown!
Soon, a great darkness will touch every city in this league,
and God's favor for Edmonton will be obvious to all.
Fans of every team will look at you with envy in their hearts,
and opposing players will wish that they could switch sides.
Edmonton Oilers (16-19-3) @ Buffalo Sabres (17-17-4)
First Niagara Center, 5:00 p.m. MST
Television: Sportsnet Edmonton
More analysis after the jump...
Home Team Scouting Report:
The Buffalo Sabres spent, spent, and spent some more this past summer, but like so many big spenders before them, things haven't turned out as they expected. The club spent $4.5M per year for six years on winger Ville Leino who has scored just 10 points in 29 games. They spent $4M per year for four years to retain Drew Stafford who has just 6 goals and 19 points in 37 games despite getting more ice time per game than any other season. And they spent $4M per year for ten years to sign Christian Ehrhoff who leads the team in ice time, but isn't getting the tough assignments at even strength, isn't dominating in terms of possession, and isn't among the league's elite power play scorers from the blueline. If we look at salary instead of cap hit, those three players will earn $20M this season, and won't come anywhere close to providing that kind of value. All three established new career highs for points and goals last season, and now all three are overpaid. These are the kind of buys the Sabres avoided for so many years, but with money in hand, they just can't help themselves. It's like a curse, and Oiler fans recognize it well because Kevin Lowe had it too.
Edmonton Oilers (16-19-3):
Hall - Gagner - Hemsky
Smyth - Belanger - Eberle
Lander - Horcoff - Jones
Eager - Green - Hartikainen
Smid - Potter
Peckham - Petry
Sutton - Teubert
Buffalo Sabres (17-17-4):
Vanek - Hecht - Pominville
Gerbe - Roy - Stafford
Boyes - Adam - McCormick
Ellis - Gaustad - Kaleta
Regehr - Leopold
Weber - Gragnani
Brennan - McNabb
By the Numbers:
- The loss of Tom Gilbert is huge for the Oilers. He plays more minutes than anyone on the team and is particularly important at even strength (where he leads the team in ice time) and on the penalty kill (where he's second). He plays against the best players that the opposition has to offer and still has one of the best Corsi numbers on the team. Those certainly aren't going to be easy minutes to replace.
- The loss of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is also huge. Nugent-Hopkins runs the power play for the Oilers, and that's been an area of significant improvement. He's also second on the team with 35 points in 38 games, a 76-point pace over a full season. His replacement, Josh Green, has 74 points in 334 career games.
- With Nugent-Hopkins out of the lineup, Ales Hemsky should recover some of the power play time that he's lost this season. With just 2:26 in five-on-four ice time per game, Hemsky is seventh on the Oilers. The last time he finished anything but first on the team by this measure was 2007-08, and even then he was third and clearly on the top unit.
- The Oilers have had seven different defensemen play in at least fifteen games so far this season, and so far exactly none of them have had more end-zone starts in the defensive zone during five-on-five play. The closest to even is Tom Gilbert who has been on the ice for 172 offensive zone faceoffs and 168 defensive zone faceoffs.
- Things aren't so even up front. The Oilers have had fourteen different forwards play in at least fifteen games, and there are four who have more end-zone starts in the defensive zone than they do the offensive zone during five-on-five play: Eric Belanger, Ryan Smyth, Shawn Horcoff, and Ryan Jones, with Jones having the toughest ratio on the team.