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Series Preview: Oil Strike

Friday, January 15th
Series Preview: Oil Strike

The Tulsa Oilers will make their first ever visit to CenturyLink Arena on Friday night, playing the role of Idaho’s near mirror-image in this important two-game set in Boise. The Oilers sit one point behind the Steelheads in seventh place in the Western Conference standings, holding five games in hand over Idaho and looking to rebound from a 5-2 loss on Wednesday night in Utah.

These two teams met in Tulsa just over a month ago, splitting their two-game set at BOK Center. The series was a launching pad for both teams, each among the ECHL’s hottest teams in the weeks since. The Steelheads have gone 8-2-1 since leaving Oklahoma, while the Oilers have gone 7-2-2. The Steelheads had an eight-game points streak, while Tulsa went six straight with at least a point.

The Steelheads will try to recapture the explosive offense they sported during their unbeaten streak in order to push past the stingy Oilers. The Steelheads averaged 4.75 goals per game during their unbeaten streak, but they’ve dropped off a bit lately with just one goal in each of their past four games. The Oilers are coming off a 5-2 loss at Utah’s Maverik Center, but that number is inflated by two empty-net goals. The Oilers are sixth in the league in goals-against per game and fourth in shots-against per game.

The Steelheads also hope to avoid a second dose of history from Tulsa Oilers Head Coach Jason Christie. Christie broke the all-time record for ECHL coaching victories with his 492nd win, a 4-2 decision over the Steelheads on December 10th. Christie is now on the verge of his 500th coaching victory, a celebration the Steelheads won’t be keen on hosting at CenturyLink Arena.

STEELHEAD TO WATCH

Kyle Jean was a gang-buster in December, racking up 17 points during an eight-game scoring streak. He’s quieted down since that streak snapped, going without a point and registering a minus-2 rating in the last four games. That hasn’t been for lack of effort, as Jean threw four shots at Ryan Faragher in Utah last Saturday. Jean’s points streak began against the Oilers in Oklahoma, and his speed should be a factor again in this series against a solid goaltender in Kevin Carr. Also look for Jean to get back to power play prowess against an Oiler kill that has given up goals in four of the past five and is only working at a 79.2 percent success rate over that time.

OILER TO WATCH

Christophe Lalancette rides a six-game points streak into Boise, mostly functioning as a set-up man with eight assists to go along with a goal during that streak. A fourth-round draft pick of the San Jose Sharks in 2012, Lalancette is having a very strong rookie season and ranks among the first-year leaders with 20 assists. Lalancette was held off the score sheet during the Oilers’ prior two meetings with Idaho, but he’s a player to watch for, especially when skating with Oilers’ leading scorer Adam Pleskach. Pleskach has seven goals in his last nine games, six of them assisted by Lalancette.

KEY MATCHUP

Without Zack Kamrass, the Steelheads will still need to produce offense from their blue line against a Tulsa team that can produce a lot of it. Aaron Harstad scored in both games against Idaho at BOK Center and has six points in nine games. He was returned to Tulsa from AHL Manitoba on Wednesday. Defenseman Dennis Brown has 18 points this season to lead the Oilers defense corps. The Steelheads have Zach Yuen at the blue line with 12 points in his last 12 games and currently third among ECHL defenders in power play assists and power play points. Also keep an eye on Tommy Fallen, who is without a point in his last four games but has earned praise from the coaching staff in recent weeks for his aggressiveness moving the puck. Without Kamrass in the lineup, Fallen’s offensive role should increase.

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