The Edmonton Oilers come into tonight's tilt against Los Angeles to try and shake off an embarrassing 4-3 loss against Detroit last Thursday, where they gave up three goals in the first period alone. Both these teams have struggled lately, with only one win in the past five games for each team; which means a fast start is crucial for both clubs.
Aside from a seven goal outburst in Columbus last week, the Oilers have struggled mightily to score goals, which is the primary reason why tonight the kids will be reunited for the first time since the beginning of the season. All three have struggled to find the game that made them an exciting trio in the latter part of last season, and have struggled to find the right line mates.
The kids aren't the only ones who are struggling, as both Erik Cole and Dustin Penner have been major disappointments. Regardless of whether or not Penner leads the team in +/-, the fact is that he's not getting paid $4.25 million to lead the team in that category; he's getting paid to be a top six forward.
He hasn't nearly lived up to expectations, with only five points in 18 games. Cole was another guy who was supposed to be a top six forward when he got here, yet he's been toiling on the third line for a good portion of the season. In order for any success to come to the Oilers, these two have to step up their game big time.
One of the few positives this season has been the offensive production of the blue liners for the Oilers. Sheldon Sourray and Lubomir Visnovsky have contributed in the offensive zone, combining for 27 points, 46 penalty minutes, and a +5 rating. Denis Grebeshkov looks like he's developing nicely so far, with eight points and a respectable -2 rating.
Tonight Mathieu Garon is expected to get the start in net after Dwayne Roloson and Jeff Deslauriers have overtaken him in the depth chart. His last win came against Calgary on October 18. This season his goals against average is 3.40 and his save percentage is below 0.900.
Also tonight, Tim Sestito will make his Oilers debut. In an effort to get more energy and high-tempo play, Sestito was recalled from Springfield of the AHL. This season in the AHL, he has two goals and one assist in 16 games, while serving as an alternate captain. He will most likely play on an energy line featuring Liam Reddox and Zach Stortini.