The Oilers are rested. They’ve had two days between games leading up to tonight, while the Dallas Stars are playing their third game in four nights.
Is this a trap game?
It could be, and if this was circa 2010-2015, we could expect the Oilers to lay an egg, but this team is different from recent teams, and I’d argue it is time to turn the page and analyze this team based on today, not the horrors of the past decade.
It is easy to bring up the recent failures and use them as a bench mark, but from now on I will try to avoid the easy comparison of the lean years. This team has shown they are much different.
They are more competitive.
They have a lot of size.
They have skill.
They have grit.
They have competent defenders.
They are far from a finished product, and will need to gain some experience to be a true Stanley Cup contender, but the cellar-dwelling days are done. Thank goodness, because I was sick of covering horrible teams and you were equally tired, and likely more frustrated, of watching Exciting Last Place Hockey.
Tonight is a game the Oilers should win. They are playing a tired team who has many of their top-six forwards on the shelf. Patrick Sharp (concussion), Jiri Hudler (influenza), Cody Eakin (knee), Matthias Janmark (knee), Ales Hemsky (hip) and Jason Spezza (lower-body) are injured.
The Stars still have Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, so the Oilers can’t just sit back and glide to victory, but despite their own lengthy list of injured players, the Oilers have more talent top-to-bottom than the Stars ready to skate tonight.
They have to match the work ethic of the Stars. If they do, their talent should be the difference.
No changes from Tuesday. The Leon Draisaitl line, specifically Draisaitl, struggled in Pittsburgh after two solid games in Brooklyn and Detroit, and they need a bounce-back game.
Lauri Korpikoski played 20:08 minutes, the most of any forward, last night in Calgary and he scored. He averages 14:15/game, but due to injuries he has played 18:05 and 20:08 the past two games. Good for him, but it illustrates how banged up Dallas is.
Benn and Seguin are both starting to play better as well after surgery and injuries this summer.
The Stars had an optional morning skate with very few players, so we won’t know which D-men will play, but they are carrying eight, and have often rotated them in, so we could see Nemeth tonight.
Lehtonen will start in goal, as Lindy Ruff bucks the back-to-back starting trend and goes with Lehtonen again after he won last night in Calgary.
- I really liked the Oilers play on the road trip. I felt their worst game was the first stop in Toronto. They did something other teams used to do to the Oilers: they played down to the level of the opposition. Yes, I’m saying the Oilers actually have a level of play higher than other teams. Call me crazy, but I believe it is true. They aren’t at the top rung of the NHL ladder, but they are above some teams.
Despite last minute losses in Pittsburgh and New York (Rangers), I thought the Oilers were in those games. An own goal by Benoit Pouliot was just bad luck, while Matt Benning has rebounded nicely from his rookie error versus the Rangers. Don’t get me wrong, the Oilers still need to improve, especially their giveaways and soft passes at the offensive blueline and in the neutral zone, but they did not look out of place against two of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
- Benoit Pouliot only has 15 shots in 14 games. Over the past two seasons, he’s averaged just under two shots per game. He needs to be more involved, not just shooting the puck but going to the net.
- Jordan Eberle is shooting the puck more frequently so far this season. Through 14 games he has 44 shots, which equals 3.14/game. In his previous six seasons (recent to rookie year), he averaged 2.5, 2.25, 2.5, 2.77, 2.3 and 2.28 for an average of 2.41 shots/game. His SH% thru his first six seasons was 14.1%. If he maintains it with his increased shooting levels he’ll set a new career high in goals, but it might not be realistic to expect him to maintain the same % when his shots per game is up 0.73. His shooting % is currently 11.4% through 14 games, and I expect it to rise over 13%, so don’t be surprised to see #14 go on a bit of a goal scoring streak.
- Take five minutes and read this story about Joe Resnick. It will make you smile, and likely shed a tear.
- Injury update: Zack Kassian skated again today and will probably play within a week. Matt Hendricks and Brandon Davidson should be back before the end of the month, possibly within two weeks. Kris Russell’s recovery is going slower than expected and Todd McLellan said what originally sounded like day-to-day will now be longer. He gave no real time for Drake Caggiula so December would be earliest it seems.
- Stars GM Jim Nill told me today the new slimmer, form fitting goalie pants should be seen in the NHL within two to four weeks. We should take screen shots of all the goalies now and then see how different, if at all, they look when they skate out with the new pants.
- Before today’s game, we’ll be putting on a NationGear pop-up store at Vacancy Hall (10363 104th Street NW – in the Mercer building) from 4-6pm before puck drop. Feel free to swing by before (store closes an hour before puck drop) to upgrade your wardrobe with the latest NationGear without having to wait for shipping.
- We have another free Fantasy contest for you to win money. This one is for the UFC. Enter here. You pick six fighters out of the 12 matches, but keep in mind you get bonuses for fighters who finish fights earlier. For instance, a first round KO gets you 90 bonus points. And of course there are points for strikes etc, so if a fight goes the distance you can gain more points. Good luck.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
The Stars were 2-0-1 in their last season series against the Oilers, and it’s no secret that Edmonton was at the bottom of the tables. However, they seem to have turned things around. Despite coming off a fresh loss to the Penguins, the Oilers are 2-0-0 against Central division opponents this season. Their captain, the young Connor McDavid, is currently tied for second in the league in scoring.
The Stars have historically done well against the Oilers, and are 2-0-1 against Pacific division opponents this season. However, with the Oilers making their way in the world, this game will be a good test of the Stars’ ability to keep up their new calm, cool, collected play.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers take advantage of a fatigued and depleted Stars lineup and skate to a 5-2 victory. They have played seven consecutive one-goal games (excluding empty net goals), but tonight Oilersnation rests easy in the final five minutes of the third period. The Oilers only have three victories in their last 16 games versus the Stars, and only one of those was in regulation, a 4-0 win on March 27th, 2015. But a regulation win occurs tonight.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Korpikoski has played 554 NHL games. He’s scored a goal in consecutive games only six times. Usually, an ex-Oiler scoring against the Oilers is a given, but Korpikoski scoring in consecutive games won’t happen tonight. Adam Cracknell won’t score either.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: I sense a first goal of the season happening tonight. Which means one of Sekera, Klefbom, Benning or Gryba will score. Klefbom has one career goal versus the Stars, while the others have none. Sekera hasn’t scored in his last 44 games (14 this year and the final 30 last season), and he ends his drought tonight with his first career goal versus Dallas.
SPIDERMABLE THE MOVIE
Many of you will remember SpiderMable – the 6-year-old cancer-fighting superhero who had her wish granted by the Children’s Wish Foundation to fight crime with Spider-Man in the City of Edmonton. SpiderMable The Film want to tell this incredible story about one little girl’s transformation from cancer fighter, to superhero to charity ambassador, but they need your help. The filmmakers have launched an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to help raise the necessary funds to complete film. For more info on SpiderMable’s story and to contribute, go to igg.me/at/spidermablethefilm.
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