The Oilers are 7-4-1 in their last 12 games despite a non-existent powerplay. They are 3 for 30 in the month of December and special teams cost them the game vs. Calgary on Sunday. On their lone PP opportunity they surrendered a shorthanded goal which sparked the Flames comeback, and Todd McLellan has switched up his groups with the hopes it jumpstarts their lethargic power play.
Anton Lander will be the net front presence and take faceoffs on the first unit with Leon Draisaitl, Taylor Hall, Teddy Purcell and Brad Hunt. Hunt can shoot the puck, and he is a short-term stop gap until Oscar Klefbom and Brandon Davidson are back in the lineup.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins moves to the second unit with Jordan Eberle, Benoit Pouliot, Mark Letestu and either Andrej Sekera or Justin Schultz. The Oilers haven’t won enough faceoffs, and Lander should help there, which should lead to more zone time.
The Oilers have spent too much time skating back to retrieve pucks, and their zone entries have not been great either. The other missing element is a point shot. Hunt should help the first unit because he isn’t afraid to shoot the puck. He has a quick release and a hard, low shot. If he can jump start the PP he might stay in the lineup until Oscar Klefbom returns.
- Rob Klinkhammer is skating again and McLellan hinted he could be activated later this week. When he is, Jujhar Khaira will be sent back to Bakersfield. McLellan said he likes that Khaira has been around the team, watching video and seeing the intensity and commitment required to succeed in the NHL. He believes it will help him in his development.
- Zack Kassian will report to Bakersfield. He hasn’t played a game this season so he will need to knock the rust off, and if he looks good in the next few weeks he will get a look in Edmonton. “Most teams can use a guy who makes the other team uncomfortable, ” said Mark Letestu. “Our team needs a guy like that. We don’t have a big body presence who can get in on the forecheck. It would give us another element and a different way to attack teams,” Letestu said.
I wholeheartedly agree. The Oilers have lacked that element for a long time, and whether it is Kassian or another player like him, Peter Chiarelli will add that type of player in the future. Kassian will need to prove he can play at the NHL level. I hope he has his life in order after his stint in rehab, and when he returns to the ice the question will be: does he have the NHL smarts to be an effective player? He has the size and skill, but he’ll need to be more consistent and prove he can think the game.
- The Oilers were the last team to surrender a shorthanded goal, but now they’ve allowed two in their last four games. They have scored three PP goals in December, but they’ve allowed two shorthanded goals. Ouch.
- Brandon Davidson should be available for Thursday’s game vs. the Ducks. Oscar Klefbom is at least another week away. Nail Yakupov is still weeks away. Connor McDavid continues to skate on his own and progressing nicely, but he will need to practice with the team, at least once, and take contact before he returns.
- February 24th to April 2nd, 1986 was the last time the Oilers won eight consecutive games at home. They also did in in January/February of 1985. The Oilers will try to tie the franchise record of eight straight home wins tonight.
- “I’ve changed my pregame meals, my skates, my sticks, my gloves, pretty much everything to try and change my luck,” said Anton Lander about his goal drought. He was very excited about getting promoted on the PP, and he knows exactly what he needs to do. “Win faceoffs and then get to the net and create some havoc and win battles. Nothing fancy,” he said.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Not very often you can tie a franchise record set by the dominant teams of the 1980s. Oilers continue their strong play at home with a 3-2 win.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hall and Draisaitl combine for EV goal. Hall has 32 EV points, one behind Kane and Seguin, while Draisailt is 8th in EV scoring with 26 points.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers score two PP goals and Hunt registers an assist. He now has four career NHL points and all of them have come against Pacific division teams.
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