February 24 2013 09:04PM
It's ridiculous that the Edmonton Oilers will play nine straight games on the road during a 48-game season, but that's what they're facing as they prepare to take on the red-hot Chicago Blackhawks Monday to kick-off a road swing that will go a long way in deciding their playoff hopes.
Given the stops along the way, it's a daunting trip and one made that much more difficult because the Oilers have been so-so at best by getting out to a mediocre 7-7-3 start for 17 points through 17 games, with 10 of those played within the friendly confines of Rexall Place.
Saturday's 3-2 comeback victory over Phoenix earned the Oilers just their second win during a five-game homestand. They managed that without Taylor Hall, who'll serve the second game of a two-game suspension for kneeing Cal Clutterbuck of the Minnesota Wild.
It's difficult to get a read on this trip because it's difficult to get a read on Ralph Krueger's team. The inconsistent Oilers have been all over the place through 17 games, with the only real constant being their inability to generate as many goals as they'd like at even strength.
Will the Oilers return from this road trip in post-season contention or will it be obvious by March 12 that it's no cigar regarding a Western Conference playoff spot for the sixth straight season? You tell me.
THE WAY I SEE IT
FEB. 25 CHICAGO 15-0-3: The Oilers are 3-1 in Chicago the past two seasons and outscored the Blackhawks 16-14 in those games. PICK: LOSS
FEB. 28 DALLAS 9-8-1: Big D is a dead zone for the Oilers. They've got one win in 10 games in Dallas the last five seasons. PICK: OTL
MAR. 1 ST. LOUIS 10-6-2: Tough task in first back-to-back of trip. Oilers were 0-2 in Show Me State last season. One win last six trips. PICK: LOSS
MAR. 3 MINNESOTA 8-7-2: Oilers lone win in their last 16 games in Minnesota came last season, 5-2. PICK: OTL
MAR. 5 COLUMBUS 5-12-2: Oilers beat the Jackets 3-1 Feb. 1 in Columbus and are 2-2 in their last four visits. PICK: WIN
MAR. 7 DETROIT 9-7-3: Oilers lost 2-1 at the JLA on Feb. 9 and have just one win in their last nine trips to Detroit. PICK: OTL
MAR. 8 NASHVILLE 8-6-5: Won 6-3 and 6-2 in Music City last season and have won three of the last four. Second half of back-to-back. PICK: WIN
MAR. 10 CHICAGO 15-0-3: PICK: LOSS
MAR. 12 COLORADO 7-8-2: Oilers have lost three straight in Denver, including a 3-1 loss Feb. 2. PICK: WIN
If the Oilers come out of this trip with nine of a possible 18 points, which I suspect they will, they'll almost certainly jet home from Denver further out of a playoff spot than when they left home just two points out. Less than nine? Likely too much ground to make up.
It's the first four stops that are a kick in the pills. Squeeze more than two loser points from the first four games and take, say, 11-12 points from the trip, and the Oilers will have passed the halfway point of the schedule with at least a fighting chance to take a run at a playoff spot in the second half.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.