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Oilers Game Day: Columbus Blue Jackets, NHLs top team, up next tonight

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Columbus Blue Jackets' Nick Foligno (71) is chased by Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (97) during third period NHL action in Edmonton, Alta., on Tuesday December 13, 2016.

Oilers Game Day: Columbus Blue Jackets, NHL's top team, up next tonight

January 3, 2017 2:00 pm

By Jim Matheson

Edmonton Oilers (19-12-7) vs Columbus Blue Jackets (26-5-4) 5 p.m.) SportsNet, 630 CHED.

The Oilers start their four-game road trip having won four of their last six games — wins over the Los Angeles Kings (3-1) on Dec. 29, the Arizona Coyotes (3-2) on Dec. 21, the St. Louis Blues (3-2 OT) on Dec. 19 and the Tampa Bay Lightning (3-2 SO) on Dec. 17.

They did score points in the two they lost in that time — New Year’s Eve’s 3-2 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks and the 3-2 overtime decision to the San Jose Sharks on Dec. 23. Incidentally, the last time the Oilers lost in regulation was to the Blue Jackets, 3-1 at Rogers Place on Dec. 13.

The Blue Jackets come into the game on a 15-game winning streak, second-best all-time in the NHL. The record is 17 wins in a row by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1993. Columbus hasn’t lost a game since Nov. 26, 2016.

WHO TO WATCH

Oilers: C Connor McDavid

He’s led the NHL in scoring for months but Evgeni Malkin has caught him with 43 points with Sidney Crosby a point back with 42. He had 12 points in 14 Oiler games in December, but in his last nine games, he has had a more mortal five points. He’s coming off the most ice-time he’s ever racked up in an NHL game. He’s averaging 21:09 a game. That’s fourth to Patrick Kane (22 mins), Ryan Kesler (21:48) and Ryan O’Reilly (21:31).

Blue Jackets: RW Cam Atkinson

The 5’8”, 180-pound forward was the Jackets’ eighth pick in the 2008 draft, 157th overall. He went to Boston College for three years and spent a year and half in the AHL in Springfield before making the Jackets. He’s been a consistent top 9 forward through his first three years, but now the second-line right-winger is in top 10 in NHL scoring with 37 points in 35 games. He leads the league with 17 power-play points.

ADVANTAGES

Forwards: Blue Jackets — Atkinson, Alex Wennberg, Brandon Saad and Nick Foligno are in the Top 20 in NHL scoring.
Defence: Blue Jackets — David Savard (plus 24), Jack Johnson (plus 21) in the NHL Top 6 for plus-minus.
Goaltending: Blue Jackets — Sergei Bobrovsky third in goal average at 1.95.
Power play: Blue Jackets — No. 1 in league, whopping 27.4 percent
Penalty kill: Oilers — 12th best at 82.6% while Jackets are 18th
Intangibles: Blue Jackets — Only two wins back of tying 2012-2013 Pens for best all-time
Overall: Blue Jackets — Staggering plus-50 in goal differential, best in league.

WORTH NOTING

— Patrick Maroon and Milan Lucic might flip-flop as McDavid’s LW, with Maroon getting the nod vs. Jackets and Lucic moving to Leon Draisaitl-Ryan Nugent-Hopkins second line.

— Andrej Sekera (flu) will likely be back with Kris Russell on top defence pair and Eric Gryba could sit as No. 7 with Matt Benning moving beside Brandon Davidson in third pairing.

— The Blue Jackets have been hit hard with injuries the last few years, but they’ve been disgustedly healthy this year with 11 guys playing all 35 games.

— They’ve got 22 points from fourth-line winger Scott Hartnell, showing their team depth.

—Draisaitl (eight) and Atkinson (seven) are in top six in PP goals.

—Wennberg leads NHL with 14 PP assists. Atkinson and Wennberg are 1-2 in PP points with 17 and 16, respectively.

— The Jackets had 34 wins in 82 games last year and have 26 in 35 this season.

— Jordan Eberle is snake-bit with five goals in 87 shots over his last 34 games.

— Benoit Pouliot’s season has been a write-off offensively. He has two goals and three points in his last 26 games.

— Cam Talbot will be starting his 10th game in a row and 19 of the last 21 in the Oilers net.

Injuries: Oilers – Darnell Nurse (torn ligament right ankle), Iiro Pakarinen (knee); Blue Jackets – None.

jmatheson@postmedia.com

On Twitter: @NHLbyMatty

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