Blue Jackets-Oilers Preview
The Columbus Blue Jackets are the league's only team to have already been eliminated from postseason contention.
The Edmonton Oilers are well on their way to joining them.
After blasting his team for a lackluster performance, coach Tom Renney hopes to see a better effort from the Oilers when they host the Blue Jackets on Wednesday night.
Edmonton's 59 points can only best Columbus' 51, and the Oilers (26-36-7) are headed for a third straight last-place finish in the Northwest Division. Although Edmonton will almost certainly miss the playoffs for a sixth consecutive year, Renney expects to see his players compete.
He felt his team gave up in Monday's 3-2 loss to San Jose, the Oilers' sixth defeat in seven games.
"Problem No. 1 was playing not to lose," he said. "Problem No. 2 is two power-play goals for your opponent. Problem No. 3 was deciding it was just too hard.
"We have a few people who need to look in the mirror here because this is unacceptable. You're the Edmonton Oilers. You're a millionaire. You have an opportunity to play the game. Suck it up and play hockey."
It's not entirely surprising the usually calm and collected Renney called out his players considering how poorly they've been playing.
The Oilers allowed the Sharks to score on both of their power-play chances, and have killed 61.9 percent (13 of 21) of their opponents' opportunities in the last eight contests. The offense also has been woeful, as Edmonton has scored three goals or fewer in seven straight games and no more than two in five of them.
"Everyone in this room knows we have to be better," said Taylor Hall, who has scored in three straight games and has 26 goals. "This isn't the way we wanted to start off this homestand."
The Blue Jackets (22-40-7) arrive in Edmonton to open a three-game Western Canada trip after losing 2-1 to the Blues on Saturday. Columbus had won a season-best four straight games before falling 4-1 in St. Louis the previous night.
Despite getting swept in the weekend series, Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards was pleased with how his team stacked up against the Western Conference leaders.
"I don't think the gap was that much," he said. "I thought we played right with them. They're a good team and it would be good someday to compare yourself to them."
Although Richards praised his team, he would have liked to see some success with the man advantage.
The Blue Jackets had a season-high eight power-play chances Monday but failed to score. They're 0 for 24 with the extra skater in the last five games.
Curtis Sanford has a 3.79 goals-against average in losing four starts since coming off injured reserve (back). He started the first two games of the season series with Edmonton, stopping 28 of 33 shots in a 6-3 loss at Rexall Place on Dec. 2 and making 21 saves in a 4-2 home win Jan. 17.
Edmonton's Nikolai Khabibulin, 0-3-2 with a 3.33 GAA in his last six starts, hasn't faced Columbus since last February. He is 3-1-2 with a 2.58 GAA and a shutout in six games versus the Blue Jackets since 2008-09.