GDB 39.0: HOME ICE ADVANTAGE – Lights Out?

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GDB 39.0

Edmonton, most years, wouldn’t be anywhere near the playoff race given its record. The Pacific is a disaster this year, and so they’ve been given a unique opportunity. With the postseason in sight, and five straight games after the Christmas break coming against division rivals, this was the club’s best chance to pull its way into the playoff picture.

Or, for that matter, to push itself out of it.

Edmonton is now three games and three losses into this five-game run of four-point games:

  • Dec. 26: Vancouver 2, Edmonton 1 (OT)
  • Dec. 27: Calgary 5, Edmonton 3
  • Dec. 29: Los Angeles 5, Edmonton 2
  • Dec. 31: hosting the Ducks tonight
  • Jan. 2: hosting the Coyotes on Saturday

Edmonton is also one game into a six-game home stand and playing its second contest of those games at Rexall tonight, but after Arizona the four-point games, the games where the Oilers can not only collect points but also sabotage their rivals, come to a stop. Beating Carolina, Tampa Bay and Florida will help, but not the way wins against Vancouver and Calgary would.

Losses to Anaheim and Arizona would probably end Edmonton’s season. Although the Oilers are technically just four points out, that’s misleading as it does not include games in hand. Assuming all teams keep up their current paces over those games, this is what the Pacific would look like if every team had played the 38 games that the Oilers have:

  • Los Angeles: 51 points
  • San Jose: 40 points
  • Arizona: 39 points (playoff cut line)
  • Calgary: 38 points
  • Vancouver: 37 points
  • Anaheim: 37 points
  • Edmonton: 33 points

Six points is a pretty tough gap to make up over a half-season, and a loss to Anaheim followed by a loss to Arizona would likely make that gap eight points. Two wins, on the other hand, would keep the Oilers competitive; the team needs to find a way to turn things around against the Ducks tonight.

Projected Lines

Line combinations courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com, the best source for all your daily fantasy hockey news.

12.31.16 EDM lines

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Edmonton’s forward combinations are unchanged, save for the insertion of Jujhar Khaira. Khaira has been promoted to the fourth line after the unit’s previous right wing, Iiro Pakarinen, was killed in action against the Los Angeles Kings on a valiant zone entry.

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Khaira hasn’t played in two weeks. Like Anton Slepyshev before him, he’s been soaking up the NHL experience without the benefit of actually playing ice hockey. It’s an odd quirk of the Peter Chiarelli/Todd McLellan tandem that they’re fine with sticking a young player in this situation rather than using someone like Andrew Miller or Ryan Hamilton to warm the press box. It’s a little funny to see, given the amount of grief that the previous management took for that Klefbom/Nurse/Marincin logjam at the start of last season.

On defence, Eric Gryba is banged up and will sit out, meaning that Brad Hunt lives to fight another day. He’ll be paired with his old AHL collaborator, Brandon Davidson, who has been dearly missed during his time on injured reserve. Davidson instantly upgrades Edmonton’s defence, but I expect we’ll see him used strictly in a third pair role in his first game back.

12.31.16 ANA lines

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Anaheim’s top line has 22 goals on the year; that compares to Edmonton where Taylor Hall has 15 goals all by himself. Anaheim’s second line has 10 goals, which is worth remembering the next time that someone tells you Benoit Pouliot (eight goals, missed nine games with injury and played hurt for a while, too) is on a bad contract. 

10-Horcoff-2

Anaheim’s third line has 11 markers, of which Oilers all-time hero Shawn Horcoff has scored six. This isn’t a team that has scored much this year, though Edmonton has been a slumpbuster for more than one NHL club in the past.

On defence, Sami Vatanen is worth watching; he’s just four points back of the team scoring lead and is one of the most enjoyable offensive defencemen in hockey. Also worth watching is Shea Theodore, a highly touted 20-year-old playing in just his second NHL game. Theodore topped the point-per-game mark his last two seasons in the WHL.

What They’re Saying

Anaheim Calling:

After reeling off six straight wins to begin the month of December, Edmonton has come back to earth with a 1-5-1 mark in their last seven games. Perhaps not coincidentally for the young team, of the winning streak five of the six games were at home, while five of the past seven have been on the road. Once again the issue for the Oilers has been defense, as the team has allowed the fourth-worst average goals against in the league. Neither Anders Nilsson or Cam Talbot have proved to be transcendent players between the pipes. That has not been helped by a bottom third offense that has surely been missing first overall selection Connor McDavid, who remains out with injury.

Tonight

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Game day prediction: Anaheim is on a bit of a roll, having won both of its games since the Christmas break and boasting a 3-1-1 record over its last five. Edmonton has lost six of its last seven and three straight games. Call it 3-1 Ducks.

Obvious game day prediction: Somebody’s going to fight. Anaheim’s 20 fighting majors rank second in the NHL. Edmonton, incidentally, is at eight, three back of the league median of 11.

Not-so-obvious game day prediction: Anton Lander scores a goal! Anton Lander scores a goal! On the power play, his first of the season., No. 51 Anton Lander, assisted by No. 24 Brad Hunt and No. 29 Leon Draisaitl.

NOMINATE YOUR HOME ICE HERO!

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Nominate your Home Ice Hero and they could win a prize worth $5,000. Nominate your hero.

NATIONGEAR BOXING DAY SALE

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RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • dw

    Eberle has been absolutely invisible tonight. Only time I noticed him was one time he completely stopped going after a puck to avoid getting hit. There are a number of passengers on this team and he may be the worst offender. He has the talent to drive the bus but just doesn’t. So frustrating.

  • Gongshowallday

    Watching the team play Anaheim is just like against LA, its the men against the boys.
    Anyone who thinks this team is just 1 solid d man from making some noise in the playoffs is kidding them selves.
    The Oilers are winning about 20% of the puck battles.
    In the second period when it was 4 on 4 for two minutes, the Oilers didn’t get the puck out of their half. For all the high end talent, it just doesn’t compare to a big mean heavy team.
    With ten minutes left Eberle, has 0 shots , 0 hits and 0 penalties to go along with a pile of other 0’s.
    If the game turns into a track meet he is into it, when its teams that play hard and hit hard, he disappears. Trade this guy while he still has value, 2 years from now if you trade this guy you wont get more than a 3rd round pick for him.

      • bradleypi

        I have said this for months.
        Chiarelli is the culprit, willful incompeyent.
        Accepting these heartless, gutless players is beyond reason.
        Gut the team tomorrow!
        Start with flushing Schultz, Eberle and RNH, assp.
        Not NHL players!

        • Seriously Bored

          Big trades dont happen during the regular season. You are not incompetent because nobody wants to play with you. Yes the players aren’t good enough to win every night but how is he supposed to trade these non NHL players you speak of?

          It’s called the salary cap genius. GMs don’t trade unless it’s for comparable salary and since you are saying these guys aren’t good enough to be in the NHL I’m pretty sure no one is going to give us NHL players with 5 mil contracts. Maybe we can trade both ebs and nuge for ovie? Why don’t you call Washington and find out I’ll wait up for your answer.

  • bradleypi

    I think we can all agree, playoff dreams are over.

    The Oilers “core” players show once again that when the going get tough …. they can’t bring it.

    Ebs = invisible

    Nuge = one good chance

    Brutal

    Can’t wait for PC to rejig this loser team

  • Gongshowallday

    Looking like some veterans have hit a brick wall when it comes to desire to do better . Point out Eberle and Hopkins as two that just appear to be going thru the motions . Maybe they have given up and hope to be traded ? Never expected the pair of them to be such a negative factor in most games . We are barely decent when all cylinders are running . When some coast , we are rarely in a position to win any gsmes . Character of players equivalent as a team to their results – below expectations necessary to compete at a high level consistently . Chia sent a message with Kassian , now it looks time to send one to our young stars and move one out to revitalize the accepted play and culture here in play .

    • bradleypi

      Chiarelli is an incompetent.
      Get this.
      He allows this horror to go on night after night.
      He doesn’t csre. Get this.
      Anyone who did would have gutted this team months ago.
      He wallows in inaction.
      And yet we pay hundred of dollars to be insulted by this team.
      He should be fired.