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Oilers v. Thrashers - Proverbs 23:1-5

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When dealing with another general manager,
pay attention to any
cowbells he might have.

If you have an affinity for big men,
you might as well kill yourself.

Don't chase after every player you've ever drafted;
other men will try to trick you.

Don't force yourself to make a trade just to make one;
be wise enough to know when to quit.

In the blink of an eye, a strength can become a weakness;
when you trade good players, make sure to get value in return.

Atlanta Thrashers (25-24-10) @ Edmonton Oilers (18-32-8)

Rexall Place, 1:30 p.m. MST
Television: Sportsnet West

More analysis after the jump...

Visiting Team Scouting Report:

Tonight marks the 884th regular season or playoff game in Atlanta Thrashers' history, and yet the franchise is still looking for its first playoff win. There are rumblings about relocation right now, and it's easy to talk about the market being the big problem, but really, that's an awful lot of losing. If the Oilers haven't won a playoff game five years from now it's quite possible that the fans in Edmonton would be getting restless. Unfortunately for the Thrashers, this year isn't likely going to be the end of their drought. They are one of the worst teams in the league at generating possession (their Corsi percentage with the score tied was 46.1% through 56 games, which bests only four teams in the NHL), and they've struggled enough on the PK that their STE is 96.1 despite the league's eighth-best power play (20.2% on the PP and 76.5% on the PK). On top of that, they just traded their tough-minutes center (and stellar faceoff man) for a big winger who has never been counted on as a go-to guy; that trade may work out for them in the future, but in the present, it's likely to make them even worse. This club is likely to miss the playoffs, and stand a very good chance of making it to 1,000 games before their first playoff victory.

Expected Lineups:

Edmonton Oilers (18-32-8):

Penner - Horcoff - Hemsky
Hall - Cogliano - Eberle
Paajarvi - Gagner - Omark
Jacques - Reddox - Jones

Peckham - Gilbert

Smid - Chorney
Vandermeer - Foster

Dubnyk

Atlanta Thrashers (25-24-10)

Kane - Antropov - Wheeler
Ladd - Little - Bergfors
Boulton - Stapleton - Stewart
Cormier - Slater - Thorburn

Oduya - Bogosian
Enstrom - Byfuglien
Hainsey - Sopel

Pavelec

By the Numbers:

  • In the 25 games since Christmas, Andrew Cogliano has scored six goals and ten assists for sixteen points. He's also posted a solid +/- rating of +5 over that stretch of games. Another run like that to close out the year would give Cogliano 40 points and draw him darn close to an even +/- rating. Would that be enough for the poor guy to get some respect?
  • Shawn Horcoff is just four regular season points away from 400 for his career, which is a very nice accomplishment, but the real Shawn Horcoff story is the 20 penalty minutes he received in the Oilers' last game against the Canadiens, which doubled his total on the season. It was also the first ten-minute or game misconduct of Horcoff's career; Horcoff's previous high for penalty minutes in a game was 7, which he set on January 29th of 2004.
  • Ondrej Pavelec had one of the best PK save percentages in the league last season, posting a tremendous .898 while the Thrashsers were short-handed. This season, Pavelec has been well below average posting a PK save percentage of .852. His crease-mate, Chris Mason, hasn't been any better, posting a PK save percentage of .833. It's no wonder the Thrashers are 29th in the NHL in PK efficiency.
  • Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi, and Linus Omark are all among the league's top twenty rookie forwards in scoring. On the one hand, that's a great indicator that the Oilers have some talented players who will help this team to succeed in the future. On the other hand, if your team can say they have four of the league's top twenty rookie forwards in terms of scoring, your team probably sucks.
  • The Dustin Byfuglien contract has been taking some heat, and I can understand why. Here's Gabe's take: "And a $5.2M annual contract - which is more like $5.4M given that Atlanta bought out one of Buf's RFA years - would suggest that he's one of the 20-25 best defensemen in the league. Sadly, no. Byfuglien is probably overpaid by $1M per season..." But here's the thing. The Thrashers are likely only planning to keep Byfuglien for the first two years of the deal when he makes $4.25M per season, a number that's pretty much in line with Gabe's valuation. The no-trade clause he was given only lets him exclude five teams, so the Thrashers should have no trouble moving him before the $5.75M seasons so long as they can convince a cap team that Dustin Byfuglien is reasonable value at a cap hit of $5.2M. Will that be possible? It's risky, but unless Byfuglien really falls off, I think they will. If he actually plays really well, it's an easy task. If he looks somewhat overpaid, I think he's still moveable. A team like the Flyers may well prefer to have Byfuglien's cap hit than, say, Danny Briere's who will still have that $6.5M cap hit when Byfuglien starts raking in his big money, but will only actually be earning $3M in real dollars. As such, I think that this is actually a pretty decent contract; the Thrashers will be getting two years of Byfuglien at $4.25M, and then, barring disaster, trade assets for the UFA years they wouldn’t have been able to afford.