|NHL: Columbus Blue Jackets at Edmonton Oilers|
|Written by Anthony Rome|
|Monday, 26 November 2007 02:50|
Jackets Head to Edmonton
Facing the best teams in the league doesn't seem to be a problem for the Columbus Blue Jackets. It's the struggling ones that still give them trouble.
After beating division leaders in each of their last two games, the Blue Jackets hope to avoid a letdown when they start a three-game road trip on Monday night against the Edmonton Oilers.
Oddsmakers from SBG Global have made Columbus –130 money line favorites (NHL Odds) for today's game, the over/under has been set at 5.5 goals (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 75% of bets for this game have been placed on Edmonton +120 (View NHL Bet Percentages).
The Blue Jackets lost three of four to the Oilers last season with the lone win being a 4-0 shutout on Dec. 2 in Edmonton. Columbus is just 3-8-0 with one tie all-time at Rexall Place.
Columbus (11-8-4) defeated Central Division-leading Detroit 3-2 in a shootout on Saturday to move six points back of the Red Wings. The win came a day after the Blue Jackets beat Northwest leader Minnesota 4-0.
"For some reason, playing teams higher up in the standings brings out the best in us," said Manny Malhotra, who scored his fourth goal on Saturday. "It really shouldn't be that way. Our intensity level and our effort shouldn't be predicated on who we're playing."
Columbus - 4-5-2 on the road this season - hopes not to overlook Edmonton, which is last in the Northwest with 19 points.
Goaltender Pascal Leclaire made 23 saves on Saturday after stopping 32 shots in Friday's win over the Wild for his league-leading sixth shutout. In his only career start against the Oilers, Leclaire made 25 saves in a 4-1 home loss on Nov. 10, 2006.
Both Nikolai Zherdev and Rick Nash will try to extend season-high point streaks. Zherdev has two goals and five assists during his five-game run while Nash has a six-game streak during which he's posted five goals and five assists.
Nash, the Blue Jackets' leading scorer with 16 goals and 27 points, has failed to register a point in his last five visits to Edmonton.
The Oilers (9-13-1), who will wrap up a season-high six-game homestand, are coming off a 3-2 shootout win over Chicago on Saturday. Rookie Sam Gagner scored the winning goal for Edmonton, which has won both of its games on the homestand in shootouts.
"We obviously have some pretty good confidence going in the shootouts," said Oilers coach Craig MacTavish, whose teams leads the NHL with six shootout wins. "Thankfully, we have that aspect of our game going.''
Not much else has gone right for Edmonton, though. The Oilers are averaging just 2.3 goals per game, and converting a league-low 11.2 percent of their power-play opportunities.
Edmonton did get a solid outing from Dwayne Roloson against the Blackhawks, after backup Mathieu Garon had started the last three games. Having posted a 3.65 goals-against average in losing each of his last five starts, Roloson made 38 saves against the Blackhawks for his first win since Oct. 25.
Roloson went 2-1-0 with a 1.50 GAA and one shutout against the Blue Jackets last season, and is 5-6-2 with a 2.00 GAA and two shutouts against them in his career. Garon, who is 3-2-0 with a 2.34 GAA since Nov. 10, is 4-1-1 with one tie, one shutout and a 2.43 GAA lifetime against Columbus.
Ales Hemsky scored in his second straight game on Saturday, giving him seven this season. Hemsky has a goal and five assists in his last four games against the Blue Jackets.
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