The Oilers will need a similar distraction as the Mallard above to defeat the surging Anaheim Ducks tonight. They are 11-2-1 since January 13th, sit second in the Pacific Division are suddenly only five points behind the Los Angeles Kings.
The Ducks have rebounded from an atrocious start, especially offensively, and are playing like the team many expected them to be. Ryan Getzlaf is once again the offensive catalyst with 12 points in his last eight games and 18 points during his team’s 14 game hot-streak.
Getzlaf and Sidney Crosby had unproductive stretches earlier this season, but both are back scoring, which isn’t surprising considering they’ve been outstanding players for a long time. Even the best players in the game go through slumps, and right now Taylor Hall is in one. He doesn’t have a goal in ten games and his line hasn’t been as productive as they were the two months prior.
Hall has also seen many of his sticks break during this run, and he’ll switch from a black Warrior to a white Easton tonight. Hall had a longer goalless streak last year, so he’s not curled up in the fetal position late at night worrying about it, but he admitted it is bothering him.
Offensive players like to score and when you aren’t scoring, even if you are Crosby, your confidence can wane. If Hall scored on his breakaway early in the game versus New Jersey last week, a lot could be different, and when you are in a slump it can sometimes be a matter of inches between breaking out of it or falling deeper into a funk.
Hall practiced with Leon Draisaitl yesterday, while Teddy Purcell didn’t skate, but those three should be reunited tonight and head coach Todd McLellan is hopeful they can rediscover their offensive chemistry. They need to cycle the puck better, and they need to spend less time in the D zone. They have had to use a lot of energy defensively recently, and that has limited their offensive touches.
The fourth line is just a guess at this point. The flu bug has hit the Oilers, and McLellan hinted Lander could draw in for the first time since January 23rd. Lauri Korpikoski and Zack Kassian were the two bottom six wingers who didn’t skate, and I’m guessing one of them will come out. Korpikoski hasn’t been good for awhile, so even if he was healthy I think he is on the brink of a spending a night in the pressbox.
Assistant coach Jim Johnson runs the blueline and he switched his D pairs versus Winnipeg. We’ll see those again tonight as Justin Schultz skates with Andrej Sekera and Darnell Nurse with Mark Fayne.
- While the Ducks’ PP has been a dominant 7 for 26 (26.9%) over their last seven games, their PK has been equally atrocious allowing seven goals on 26 man down situations (73.1%).
- Watch Kesler try and intimidate the Oilers centres early in the game. He will give a crosscheck off the draw of in a scrum to Draisaitl or McDavid. If you don’t stand up for yourself, Kesler will go at you constantly, so I’m curious to see how McDavid and Draisaitl respond.
- There has been a lot of chatter regarding Sami Vatanen being a fit for the Oilers. I’ll be watching him closely, because I’m curious to see how good he is, or if he possibly a product of playing on a very deep team.
- Eric Gryba would like to re-sign in Edmonton. He likes it here and sees the potential of the group. There has been no contract extension talks thus far, but Peter Chiarelli has shown in the past he likes big bodies who can kill penalties are are physical in his third pair. Gryba turns 28 in April and he’s only played 217 NHL games. He has looked much more confident/comfortable the past 40 games and he will likely get more consistent as he plays more. He makes good plays under pressure, but he seems to struggle when he has more time. That is fixable and it is something Johnson has spent time working on with Gryba.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
Anaheim and Edmonton reach the halfway point of a five-game season series this evening at Rexall Place. This is the second of three games to be played in Edmonton as the Ducks will travel back to Alberta’s capital on Monday, March 28 (6 p.m. PDT). Anaheim will also host Edmonton again on Friday, Feb. 26 at Honda Center (7 p.m. PST). The Ducks have won five of the last six games vs. the Oilers (5-0-1) along with three in a row in Edmonton. Anaheim is 50-35-8 all-time vs. Edmonton, including a 23-19-4 mark at Rexall Place. Ryan Kesler leads Anaheim skaters in scoring vs. the Oilers with 10-27=37 points in 56 career matchups. On Nov. 11, Corey Perry tied Paul Kariya (300) for second place on the franchise’s all-time goal list with the 299th and 300th goals of his NHL career in Anaheim’s 4-3 overtime loss to Edmonton at Honda Center. On Dec. 31, John Gibson made 21 saves en route to a 1-0 win at Rexall Place.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are tied with the Flames for the 11th most home points in the NHL. The manage one point in a 3-2 OT loss.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid and Getzlaf each pick up a point.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hall hasn’t scored in ten games, the second-longest goal less drought of his career (he went 11 games last year), but he avoids tying his his career high as he tallies a first period goal.
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