The Edmonton Oilers have 59 points through 69 games played, a 70-point pace for the season. The Columbus Blue Jackets have 51 points through 69 games played, a 61-point pace for the season. Despite the Canadiens' best efforts, they haven't been able to make the plunge into the abyss a three-team race, so it's down to Edmonton and Columbus who play each other twice more in 2012.
If the Oilers were to lose those two games in regulation, they would fall to within four points of 30th place and Columbus would need to make up 5 points in 11 other games to overtake the Oilers.
For a team hellbent on accumulating 1st overall picks, the run through March presents a unique opportunity to put the club in a position to draft 1st overall three times in a row, something that no team since the Quebec Nordiques has been able to do.
- Early on, Corey Potter and Andy Sutton are putting out fires left and right. Sutton skated half-way across the zone to hit Tommy Wingels, but Wingels had time to not only avoid him, but telegraph his own set-up going the other way.
- Potter took too long to commit to the puck carrier after Sutton missed the hit, but that didn't deter him. He leapt into action to face Wingels and the puck was moved in front for a chance.
- Sam Gagner went for his evening walk on the first Sharks' goal. He got caught up in the old Cogliano puck stare and just like that the Sharks are up 1-0 after the puck bounces like a ping-pong ball right to Torrey Mitchell. Pucks sure have ball-like qualities for an object that's flat on two sides.
- Taylor Hall wasn't his usual swooping self in this period. It probably doesn't help that Tom Renney isn't trying to match lines at all. The Sharks are getting a great matchup here - Marleau's line vs. Nugent-Hopkins' line.
- Petrell came out on fire. He's all over the place but not creating any chances. He's offensively limited to put it kindly.
- Renney is matching Horcoff's line to Thornton's line and Smid/Petry to Thornton, but doesn't seem to mind any other matchup. Why?
- Ryan Whitney ties the game with a huge slapshot leading the rush on the on the 4-on-4 but no one is sure how he managed to get ahead of the pack. Commenters agree that he was still trying to get back on defense when the play swung around to him.
- Potter's struggles continue. He's in Timbit chase mode again and can't catch a Shark to battle with, let alone break the cycle.
- Nugent-Hopkins takes a defensive zone draw. Is Renney even paying attention?
- Oilers on the power play and Ryan Whitney is beaten badly in a race by Andrew Desjardins. Whitney had a head start on him, but couldn't hold on because he still can't move.
- A couple of fine plays in a row by the Belanger line. Belanger doesn't look as fast as he was a month ago, but he's slowly starting to come around into that role the Oilers need him to play and play well. It would help if he had some stronger linemates.
- Taylor Hall goes off for tripping and the Sharks' crew is talking about jiu-jitsu and flying scissor takedowns. San Jose's announcers are complaining about the power play not scoring in 13 chances. That's a guaranteed goal.
- And there it is.
- Hall comes out of the box slightly annoyed and atones for his mistakes by blocking the point shot into neutral ice and then winning the footrace for the puck. His rifling wrister blew right through Niemi, who seemed to be in nice position prior to the shot.
- Omark somehow managed to get the puck up and out of play and does so from a phone booth.
- Logan Couture scores on the power play and before everyone can sit down, the Sharks lead.
- Potter is in way too deep right now. He looks like an AHLer.trying to keep up.
- Horcoff has had a very good night against the Thornton line, but Hopkins is getting hemmed in against Marleau and friends, a continuing sign that Renney isn't working hard enough to get his matchups.
- Omark's penalty was apparently worthy of a benching. He played two shifts in the final 13 minutes. Linus Omark = Darcy Hordichuk, one could surmise.
- Ladislav Smid has been especially physical throughout and beat the snot out of anyone who chose to engage him behind the net.
- Ryan Whitney tried to pinch with the man advantage, but it took him so long to get there that by the time he arrived, the puck was already down into the Oilers' end.
- There's Potter again. Wow.
- Ryan Smyth decides he wants to be first to the showers for the good spot and takes a misconduct with 12 seconds to go.
- With Smid and Petry in waiting for Thornton's line, Ryan Whitney ends up leading the team in ES TOI. The one-legged Ryan Whitney.
- Nick Schultz finishes 5th in even strength time on ice. Again.
- Edmonton now with the 3rd-worst goals against in the league.