This is a feature most of you seem to like and we will try to do it for as many games as possible. Derek from Copper and Blue was nice enough to answer some questions for us, in preparation for tonight's game with the Oilers. I hope his prediction for the game is accurate because the Sabres need a victory tonight.
Special teams will be a key factor in tonight's game. The Sabres power play has struggled this season but they have scored a couple of power play goals in recent games. With the power play starting to click, the Oilers might be the perfect team to play against. Edmonton is in the bottom half of the league in penalty kill.
The Oilers have already had 91 man-games lost to injury and they come to town tonight without Ales Hemsky, Sheldon Souray, Robert Nilsson and Shawn Horcoff to name a few. The Oilers still have Dustin Penner who is finally finding the back of the net but they look mostly like and AHL team at this point.
Follow the jump to see the questions I asked and his answers.
1. Much like the Sabres, the Edmonton Oilers have missed the playoffs for a couple seasons in a row. Is this the season the Oilers finally break through and return to the playoffs?
Our preseason panel said no
but the fan poll said yes. I don't think much has changed. There just isn't enough forward depth on this team to make a run right now.
2. The Sabres and Oilers were in the news together when the Oilers signed Thomas Vanek to a huge offer sheet a couple seasons ago. The Sabres matched the offer and the Oilers eventually signed Dustin Penner. It seems he has finally found his game after a couple of disappointing seasons. What has been the biggest difference in his game this season?
Penner's underlying stats have been good since he's arrived http://www.coppernblue.com/2009/8/26/1003249/an-amicus-brief-in-support-of
and this year he's finally come into his own. Coaching change, hockey ephiphany or dumb luck or a combination of all of them, I'm not sure.
The goals and assists have caught up to the underliers. I think the biggest surprise has been his efficiency on the penalty kill. That is just experience, in my opinion.
3. The Oilers allowed Dwayne Roloson to leave this off-season and they brought in Nikolai Khabibulin to replace him. In the off-season it looked like an upgrade but Khabibulin has struggled this season. What has been the biggest flaw in his game and do you expect him to bounce back?
Most Oiler bloggers did not see Khabibulin as an upgrade and still don't, especially with that huge contract looming over the front office.
Khabibulin's biggest flaw thus far has been brain cramps. His second-largest flaw has been puck handling. Once or twice a game he makes a play that just leave everyone's mouths agape.
4. We all know how good Ales Hemsky is and we can see Dustin Penner is having a good season. What other Oilers player(s) should we watch for on Wednesday night?
Hemsky is probably not going to play. Horcoff, Hemsky, Souray, Nilsson are all out. The rest of the team is finally recovering from the flu. If you want to watch an absolutely sublime defenseman, keep an eye on #71, Lubomir Visnovsky. He doesn't light people up, but he's always got the puck on his stick and has amazing skating ability and passing skills.
If you're looking for an underdog story, check out Liam Reddox. He was called up because of injury. He's only 5'11" 190, but he's absolutely ferocious in the corners and on the wall. I'm trying to get the nickname "Jack" as in Jack Russell Terrier to catch on because of his tenacity. Every high-round pick that likes floating into his own zone and waiting for the puck to pop free from the corner should be forced to watch Reddox tapes on a loop.
5. We always finish this feature with a prediction. Who will win Oilers or Sabres?
The Oilers are being outshot at a record pace. They are banged up pretty badly and they are playing Liam Reddox, Taylor Chorney, Ryan O'Marra, Ryan Potulny, and Jason Strudwick. Gilbert Brule is now centering the second line. If the Sabres don't win, they should feel very badly about their performance.