GDB 79.0: HOME ICE ADVANTAGE – Looking to improve

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GameDay

The Oilers conclude their busiest stretch of the season tonight versus the Anaheim Ducks. This is their 15th game in 28 days, and they’ve managed to go 7-7-0 so far. They are 7-3 since March 1st when Cam Talbot starts, and he’ll play tonight.

Prior to March the Oilers were 23-34-7 (prorated over full season equals 68 points), and despite significant injuries to their blueline this month, they’ve still managed to improve their point totals. Todd McLellan challenged his team, and so far they have responded.

They still have a lot to improve before they are a playoff contending team, but instead of limping to the finish line like they have the past eight seasons, at least they are competitive down the stretch this year.

The best case scenario for the Oilers is finishing 25th, and the worst case is they will finish 30th for the third time in the seven years.

Despite a respectable finish in their final 18 games, the Oilers will once again be closer to the basement of the NHL than to the playoff cut line. I’ve seen improvement, but ultimately not enough and moral victories and small improvements simply aren’t good enough.

TEAM GP W L OT PTS ROW

Winnipeg

75

31

38

6

68

29

Calgary

75

31

38

6

68

29

Columbus

75

30

37

8

68

24

Vancouver

75

27

35

13

67

23

Edmonton

78

30

41

7

67

26

Toronto

74

27

36

11

65

21

Buffalo has 72 points and seven games remaining — the Oilers won’t be catching them.

Fifteen games in 28 days is a lot of hockey, and facing a Ducks team that is three points out of first place in the Pacific and four points ahead of third place San Jose is not an easy task, but the Oilers only play three games in the final 13 days of the season, so they will have ample time to rest up. Tonight will be a test of their desire and mental toughness and McLellan will be watching to see who shows up and who doesn’t.

LINEUPS…

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Oilers lineup courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com

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Ducks lineup courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com

QUICK HITS…

  • Nail Yakupov asking for a trade isn’t a surprise. I can see why he’d be frustrated. Right around the trade deadline a source told me Yakupov and his camp had asked for a trade, but I could never get a solid confirmation so I didn’t write it. My source mentioned at the time the Ducks were close (not guaranteed but close) on a deal with Yakupov and Benoit Pouliot prior to the trade deadline, but the injury to Pouliot put an end to those discussions.

    Teams will have interest in Yakupov. The return will be more than what some expect, but it also won’t be as much as you’d hope for a player only four years removed from being the first overall pick in the draft. Considering Yakupov’s camp was allowed to talk to other teams, Yakupov will know who had interest, and I’m guessing he will want to make a solid impression for the Ducks tonight.

    Today Yakupov said, “The agent and the team had a discussion about it, but I don’t know any details. That’s it. I’m still here.” Trust me, he knows every detail. He knows the Ducks had interest and he’ll know which other teams were/are interested. His agent, Igor Larionov, wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t tell his client what was up. Larionov will join me at 2:05 MST today to discuss Yakupov.

  • Patrick Maroon has five goals in 12 games with the Oilers, while Yakupov has six goals in 56 games. I don’t see where Yakupov fits moving forward. Having three different head coaches in four years is not ideal for a young player, and I believe both the organization and Yakupov have an equal share in his lack of production to this point. Both sides can look within and they should recognize what needs to change moving forward. The Oilers won’t have a coaching carousel under Peter Chiarelli, and when Yakupov goes to a new team next year he will need to realize he needs to play smarter. I like Yakupov’s attitude and tenacity, and if he decides to dedicate himself to playing smarter and within a system he will be a solid NHL player.
  • The Oilers went 2-4 with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid in the lineup this month. If they keep all three they are better off having Draisaitl or RNH play the wing in the top-six than spread them out over three lines. Teams barely have two scoring lines in today’s NHL — expecting three seems like a losing proposition.
  • The Oilers haven’t won 19 games at home since 2006/2007 when they went 19-19-3. They last won 20 games at home in 2005/2006 when they finished 20-15-6. They are currently 18-18-2 with three home games remaining.

TONIGHT…

YakCastAway

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are 2-4 at home in March, but they stun the Ducks with a 4-2 victory.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid has scored a goal on every day of the week this year except Monday. He has one on Wednesdays and Sundays, two on Fridays, three on Saturdays and four on Tuesdays and Thursdays. This is his final Monday game of the season so he scores a goal.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Korpikoski has seven career goals versus the Ducks, tied for the most against any team (Dallas is the other). He tallies his eighth career goal versus Anaheim tonight.

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