The Oilers will reach the halfway mark of the season at the conclusion of tonight’s game vs. Carolina. If they only played games at home the Oilers would be a very competitive team. They are 11-7-1 (23 points) when Todd McLellan has last change, and a win tonight would give them the most home points of any team in the Pacific division.
They are a much more confident team on home ice, but if they want to stay in the playoff race in the second half they will need to improve their play on the road. They’ve garnered a league-low 12 points (in 21 games) away from home and only Vancouver, Winnipeg and Columbus (22) have played more road games.
The Oilers are 7-2 at home vs. Eastern conference teams. They defeated Detroit, Montreal, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Boston, Buffalo and the Rangers while losing to Washington and Pittsburgh. They are 2-0 vs. non-playoff teams, and with the Hurricanes sitting 12th in the East and 25th in the NHL this is a team they must beat at home.
The Canes are 8-4-2 since December 5th and they’ve been playing tight, low scoring games. They’ve only allowed 14 goals in their last eight games (1.75 GAA), but they’ve only scored 15 which equals a very boring 3.6 combined goals-per-game in that span.
The Hurricanes allow the fewest shots against (26.1/game) in the NHL. They don’t give up many chances and if they had even decent goaltending they’d likely be contending for a playoff spot. Cam Ward (.900 in 26 starts ) and Eddie Lack (.892 in 13 starts) have struggled.
The Oilers can’t get frustrated by the Hurricanes stingy defence tonight. They likely won’t get many chances/shots, so they will need to capitalize on the few chances they get.
- On the weekend Todd McLellan shed some light on Oscar Klefbom. The D-man suffered a lower body injury after breaking his finger/knuckle and that’s why he hasn’t been skating. McLellan informed us Klefbom’s hand injury is basically healed, but his lower body injury has prevented him from being on the ice. He didn’t give any timetable on a return for Klefbom. That is brutal news for the Oilers.
- After missing the first month of the season it took Jordan Eberle another month to catch up. After picking up only three points (all goals) in his first 13 games, he has started to produce much better the past month tallying 13 points in 14 games.
- Justin Faulk is tied with Patrick Kane for the NHL lead in PP goals with 12. The Hurricanes rearguard has an outstanding point shot, and he is very good at changing the angle of his shot to ensure he doesn’t get blocked. The Canes PP goes through him. Jeff Skinner is second on the Canes in PP goals with two. It is rare to see a blueliner as not only the quarterback on the PP, bt their best scoring option as well.
- The Hurricanes are the least penalized team in the NHL. They’ve been shorthanded 90 times so far. The Jets are the most penalized at 148, and every team in the NHL has been on the PK at least 111 times except the Canes (90) Flames and Wild (94) and Sabres (95).
- It is interesting to note while those four teams have been much more disciplined, all of them struggle on the PK. The Hurricanes sit 23rd at 78.9%, Minnesota is 24th at 78.7%, Buffalo is 27th at 76.8% and the Flames are 30th 74.5%.
- Carolina doesn’t allow a lot of shots because they aren’t on the PK very often, and they are the best faceoff team in the NHL. The Oilers are 17th in FO% at 49.8.
- Don’t expect McDavid back during this homestand. The Oilers will be very cautious with him and you might not see him until after the All-star break. He has yet to take part in any contact drills, so I’d guess the earliest we see him is mid-January. Until we see him involved physically in battle drills during practice no one should expect him to play in a game.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Despite Carolina’s recent stingy streak, the Oilers and Canes engage in a high-scoring affair and Edmonton wins 5-4.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Pouliot/RNH/Eberle line has combined for five goals and 14 points in the last four games. They combine for another goal tonight.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Lauri Korpikoski is on a hot streak off the ice. He’s won quite a few bets the last few days as Finland defeated Canada and Sweden on their way to the gold medal game at the WJC. “These guys are so cheap I might have to go to their house to collect,” he smiled this morning. The Finns play in Helsinki inspires him and he scores his first goal in 11 games.
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