The Edmonton Oilers are staring down the barrel of a gun as they head into Joe Louis Arena tonight to face the Detroit Red Wings, as this isn’t so much a battle of David and Goliath as it is an ant and a dinosaur.
The Oilers are 1-2-2 on their current nine-game road trip, haven’t won in Detroit since December 2009, are 0-9-1 in their last 10 matchups with the Red Wings and are 2-22-4 in their last 28 meetings in Detroit, so the odds are certainly stacked against them.
Add to this the fact that the likely starter in net for the Red Wings, the red-hot Jimmy Howard, is 3-1-1 with a 1.38 goals-against average in his last five games overall and has posted a 1.16 GAA in his last six starts versus the Oilers. The prospect of the Oilers coming out with a win tonight becomes quite small.
The one saving grace for the Oilers, who currently sit in 13th place in the West with 21 points and are only three points out of last place, is that their special teams have a significant edge over the Red Wings. Though they have been scuffling in this department recently, going four for 29 over the past eight games, they still rank eighth in the league in power play percentage (20.8 percent), while Detroit ranks 23rd (14.9 percent).
Similarly, the Oilers rank sixth on the penalty kill (85.4 percent), while the Red Wings rank 24th (77.5 percent). Additionally, the Oilers are tied for third in the league in shorthanded goals with three, while the Red Wings are tied with three other teams for the most shorthanded goals given up this season, also with three.
If Edmonton is to have any chance of winning this game, it will likely be because of its special teams play. Sam Gagner and Justin Schultz both have 10 points on the power play so far, while Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Ales Hemsky all have seven, so their efforts could have a huge impact on tonight’s result.
Do the Oilers have it in them to get another surprise road win versus a longtime nemesis after besting the Dallas Stars last month for the first time in over six years? Or will the Red Wings feast on the Oilers once again as they look to improve on their sixth place position in the West? Stay tuned.