Oilers aim to start climbing back into race at Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Neither the Edmonton Oilers nor the Columbus Blue Jackets are operating like well-oiled machines at this point in the season, but one team is getting far better results.

The Blue Jackets (19-10-1) enter their Tuesday night game against the Oilers in Nationwide Arena sitting atop the Metropolitan Division standings after 30 games.

Columbus got there despite having the worst power play in the league at 9.41 percent. The Blue Jackets also are struggling mightily to score goals at even strength, but they continue to win.

In the past 11 games, the Blue Jackets went 8-3-0, including a 1-0 home victory over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night in which the only goal came 30 seconds after the opening faceoff.

The saving graces for the Blue Jackets are goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, who has four shutouts, and a young, emerging top line of Artemi Panarin, Josh Anderson and Pierre-Luc Dubois.

Panarin delivered the primary assist on the Blue Jackets' past six goals, and Anderson leads the team with 11 goals.

Bobrovsky is expected to start his fifth consecutive game Tuesday.

Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella is putting pressure on his veterans to step up their games.

"I'm not looking to hate players," he said. "I'm looking to run a team and try to get the players to be the best they can be. Quite honestly, this is my responsibility, and I think I have failed a little bit in this part, where I have so many of our top guys not playing that well."

Tortorella made forward Cam Atkinson a healthy scratch for the Saturday game. Atkinson has not produced a point since he signed a seven-year contract extension last month, but he will be back in the lineup against the Oilers.

"It's a wake-up call, and I take full responsibility," Atkinson said. "I know I need to be way better, and I will be."

The Oilers' last game also ended 1-0 with the only goal 34 seconds into the opening period, but they were on the losing side Sunday at Toronto.

That result is indicative of what is happening recently with Edmonton (12-16-2). The Oilers put 41 shots on goal Sunday to the Maple Leafs' 23 but couldn't get anything past Toronto backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney.

"Hockey is a weird game," Oilers captain Connor McDavid said. "Some nights you don't do anything and you get one or two (points), and some nights you have your legs and you get nothing."

The Oilers generated chances, but the results simply weren't there. With seven losses in the past 12 games, they are mired in next-to-last place in the Pacific Division standings.

McDavid is trying to do his part to provide a jump-start. After being slowed by illness last month, he has produced one goal and four assists in the past five games.

"I was happy with my game," he said after the loss in Toronto. "I thought I was able to generate some chances."

Teammate Milan Lucic has two goals and three assists in the past four games, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has scored three goals in the past six outings.

However, for the Oilers to start generating some wins consistently and help goaltender Laurent Brossoit (2-6-1), McDavid needs to be the driving force.

"He's been really good," Oilers left winger Patrick Maroon said of McDavid. "With him being sick, it's been tough, but he's finding his gear. Whatever he did (Sunday), I'm sure he's going to continue that in Columbus. That's why he's our leader. That's why he wears the C."

Copyright 2017 by STATS. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS is strictly prohibited.

Our Latest Stories