A banged-up Edmonton Oilers (16-19-3) squad rides into Buffalo tonight to face the Sabres (17-17-4), and they will be without the NHL’s rookie scoring leader. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who leads all NHL rookies with 35 points, fell awkwardly into the boards during Edmonton’s 4-3 victory over the Chicago Black Hawks last night, injuring his shoulder.
The Oilers might also be without defenseman Tom Gilbert, who was driven face-first into the end boards last night by Chicago’s Daniel Carcillo (what a shock), and had to leave the game. Carcillo earned himself a five-minute major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct for his actions.
The Oilers, who won their first road game after losing the last eight away from Rexall Place, currently sit last in the Northwest division, and 13th in the Western Conference with 35 points. Despite their losing record, Edmonton is getting some good production from center Jordan Eberle (16-25-41); winger Ryan Smyth (15-17-32); last season’s number one pick, winger Taylor Hall (11-15-26 in only 30 games) and the injured Nugent-Hopkins.
Tonight’s starting goaltender for the Oilers hasn’t been a problem either, as 16-year NHL veteran Nikolai Khabibulin comes into the game with a stellar 2.25 GAA and .924 save %. He has, however, lost his last two starts, with back-up goalie Devan Dubnyk recording the 39-save victory last night in Chicago.
The Sabres enter tonight’s contest losers of their last three games, and have won only once in their last seven. Buffalo currently sits fourth in the Northeast Division, just three points ahead of the Montreal Canadiens, and 11th in the Eastern Conference.
For the Sabres, winger Thomas Vanek has ten points in his last eight games, while center Derek Roy has only two goals in his last 21 games. Jason Pominville will most likely play, despite missing the last two days of practice with the flu, while winger Brad Boyes re-injured the ankle that cost him 13 games. Boyes may be a game-time decision.
The last time the Oilers earned a victory against the Sabres was October 16, 2003. They haven’t beaten the Sabres in Buffalo since March 4th, 2002.
Ryan Miller, who has been in net for the last five Sabres victories against Edmonton, will get the start for Buffalo.