The Oilers have 13 games remaining on the schedule and all of them are against western conference foes. With Nashville seven points ahead of Colorado and nine up on Minnesota, there is only one playoff spot up for grabs, leaving the Oilers with two games where they can legitimately play the “spoiler” role.
The Oilers games against the top seven teams in the west could impact home ice advantage, but it won’t decide their playoff appearance. However, the Wild and Avalanche can’t afford a loss to the 29th place Oilers as they battle for the second wild card spot.
The Wild should be desperate this evening and I’m curious to see if the Oilers can match their emotion, intensity and desperation.
It would be wonderful if the Oilers were actually in a playoff hunt sometime this decade, but until then games like tonight are the closest they will get to a playoff race, and I’m sure Todd McLellan will watch to see how they react.
The Oilers won three of four games on their last road trip after only winning seven of their first 32 away from Rexall Place. They have already surpassed their road win total from last season (nine), but they need to win three of their final five road games just to tie the 13 wins they had in 2014. They have lots of room to improve on the road.
**The Oilers didn’t skate today, so we are going off lines yesterday and pairs based on Nurse’s suspension.**
Connor McDavid and Taylor Hall will start on the same line for the first time since the third game of the season. Zack Kassian gets promoted to patrol the right side.
Patrick Maroon, Leon Draisaitl and Jordan Eberle created two glorious chances in the third period versus San Jose and they will remain together tonight. I like McLellan’s thinking of having two highly skilled forwards flanked by a big winger with complementary skill.
Unless the Oilers produce nothing offensively, I sense he will give these lines a few games to try and create some chemistry. After the Sharks game he said you can’t put the lines in a blender all the time, like he did in the third period, but he did so to challenge them to be better. We’ll see how they respond tonight, because they did create some quality chances in the third period vs. the Sharks.
- The NHL continues to prove how ridiculously inconsistent they are. Had
Darnell Nurse been given an instigator penalty in his fight versus Roman
Polak, he would have received an automatic one game suspension. He
deserved the instigator, but because he didn’t get one, NHL Player Safety steps in and decides to give him a three-game suspension.
- Last week Max Domi went after Ryan Garbutt. Garbutt’s didn’t fight back and Domi actually punched him while on the ice with the linesmen trying to separate them. Domi got an instigator and an automatic one-game suspension because it was in the last five minutes.
Did Domi initiate like Nurse? Yep.
Was Domi the aggressor like Nurse. You bet.
But because the officials got the call correct on the ice, instigator for Domi and an automatic one-game suspension, no one expected further discipline. Nurse’s actions were similar, the only difference was he is a better fighter and landed heavier blows.
realize the NHL could have looked at the “aggressor” rule, but I highly
doubt they would have. Can you recall any player who received an
automatic one game suspension for instigating a fight and then had
additional games added to his suspension for being the “aggressor?” I
- Either way, I still don’t have an issue with what Nurse did. He didn’t have luxury of instant replay,
and crossing the line now and then isn’t the worst thing. I’d rather have a player you need to reign in than one you have to beg and plead to play with some emotion.
has yet to go three games without a point. This is the fourth time he
has been scoreless in two consecutive games, so don’t be surprised when
he tallies a point tonight. He has been in on 22 of the last 45 goals
(48.8%) the Oilers have scored.
- Nail Yakupov has no assists in 25 games since returning from injury. He has four goals in that span, but only two in his last 20 games. The Oilers offence isn’t producing consistently either. They have 45 goals in their last 19 games, and 17 of them came in three victories over Ottawa, Toronto and Columbus.
- Forward production in last 20 games:
McDavid 8-14-22 (19 games)
Pouliot 4-10-14 (16 games)
Maroon 5-7-12 (4 games with Edm, 2-2-4, and 16 games with Ducks)
Cracknell 2-0-2 (4 games with Edm, 0-0-0, 6 with Vancouver)
Lander 1-0-1 (11 games)
Pakarinen 0-1-1 (14 games)
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
The Wild once again find themselves on the outside of the playoff picture looking in after Colorado won it’s last two. St. Paul has not been a friendly place for the Wild since the calendar flipped from 2015 to 2016, as they have gone 2-9-1 at the Xcel in 2016. If the playoffs are in the Wild future that has to change. Eight of the Wild’s remaining fifteen games are at home, with five of those against non-playoff teams beginning with tonight’s opponent, the Edmonton Oilers.
The Wild have taken both previous match-ups with the Oilers including a 5-2 thumping in Edmonton during coach John Torchetti’s first week four game winning streak. The Oilers have been a lot better of late winning four of their last six, and three of their last four on the road. Edmonton’s overall team defense has been better over that stretch yielding just 12 goals in those six contests, with 6 of those goals against coming in one game, a 6-3 loss at Columbus at the end of a four game road trip.
Tonight the Wild need to apply the pressure early and get the Minnesota faithful engaged in the game from the start. The Xcel can be a tough place for opponents to play when the crowd is behind the team. It can also become eerily silent when the Wild play lacks intensity and the urgency necessary for this team to compete.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: This is the Oilers 40th game in Minnesota versus the Wild. They’ve won 14 of the first 39. The Wild is 21-1-3 at home versus Edmonton since February 25th, 2007, but the Oilers have managed to win four times in their last eight visits. Wild are rested and pick up a 4-3 SO win.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hall and McDavid combine for a goal and the ridiculous statements stating they can’t play together will cease.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Former Oiler Jarret Stoll is the only Wild forward who hasn’t scored since Torchetti was hired. The Wild are 8-4 under Torchetti and Stoll ends his 19-game goal drought tonight.
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