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Photo Credit: isuckatpicking

GDB 69.0: Dallas, a Team the Oilers Should Beat

The Dallas Stars sit 26th in the NHL. They are 29th in GAA at 3.24. They don’t give up many shots, averaging 30.4/game (16th in NHL), but their goaltending has not been good enough. Kari Lehtonen has a .902sv% in 42 starts, while Antti Niemi has been worse with a .895sv% in 26 starts.

This is a team the Oilers should beat, and if they create as many quality chances as they did against Marc-Andre Fleury and Carey Price this past weekend, they will score more than three goals.

There are no easy games in the NHL, but if the Oilers match the intensity of the Stars, they should win because they have more skill, especially in goal with Cam Talbot.

A win would put the Oilers one point back of both Calgary and Anaheim with 13 games remaining. It sets up for a great race, but the Oilers need to beat a weak Stars team.

Despite going winless last week, I didn’t think the Oilers played terribly. Their biggest issue was their inability to finish. They need more urgency around the net. They have enough offensive skill, but they need to show it tonight.

“We need to shoot more,” said Patrick Maroon. “We’ve been a good scoring team all year, we can’t let a few games bother us. We are keeping it light and the guys are having fun. Being in the race is fun,” Maroon said with a smile.

He’s correct. This beats the alternative and none of the players are wallowing in self-pity. They were upbeat. Their focus is more on second place than it is on simply a playoff spot. “You want to put yourself in the best position, and we’ve been right in it all year. We control our own destiny and we need to keep believing. This is so much more fun than anything I’ve experienced in my NHL career,” said a smiling Jordan Eberle.

The players aren’t worried or concerned, but they know they have to play better. Playing well and losing isn’t good enough this time of year. Tonight is a game they need to have, and you would expect them to show desperation and urgency. They proved they can play that way against Pittsburgh, so there is no reason they can’t dial it up again tonight.

LINEUP

Oilers

LW C RW
Patrick Maroon
Patrick Maroon
Connor McDavid
Connor McDavid
Leon Draisaitl
Leon Draisaitl
Milan Lucic
Milan Lucic
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Jordan Eberle
Jordan Eberle
Benoit Pouliot
Benoit Pouliot
David Desharnais
David Desharnais
Zack Kassian
Zack Kassian
Matt Hendricks
Matt Hendricks
Mark Letestu
Mark Letestu
Anton Slepyshev
Anton Slepyshev
Defensive Pairings
Oscar Klefbom
Oscar Klefbom
Adam Larsson
Adam Larsson
Andrej Sekera
Andrej Sekera
Kris Russell
Kris Russell
Darnell Nurse
Darnell Nurse
Matt Benning
Matt Benning
Goalies
Cam Talbot
Cam Talbot

Anton Slepyshev draws in for Iiro Pakarinen on the fourth line. Benoit Pouliot wasn’t on the ice this morning. Todd McLellan said it was an optional skate, but Pouliot was the only player not on the ice. I find that very odd, considering he hasn’t scored in 28 games. I’d wager he is either banged up, or he had a personal issue to take care of, and I’m leaning more towards the latter.

I thought the Pouliot-Desharnais-Kassian line played okay on the weekend. If Pouliot could awake from his four-and-a-half-month slumber it would be a huge boost for the Oilers.

Stars

LW C RW
Remi Elie
Remi Elie
Jason Spezza
Jason Spezza
Tyler Seguin
Tyler Seguin
Jamie Benn
Jamie Benn
Cody Eakin
Cody Eakin
Ales Hemsky
Ales Hemsky
Curtis McKenzie
Curtis McKenzie
Radek Faksa
Radek Faksa
Patrick Sharp
Patrick Sharp
Adam Cracknell
Adam Cracknell
Devin Shore
Devin Shore
Brett Ritchie
Brett Ritchie
Defensive Pairings
Esa Lindell
Esa Lindell
John Klingberg
John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis
Dan Hamhuis
Stephen Johns
Stephen Johns
Patrik Nemeth
Patrik Nemeth
Jamie Oleksiak
Jamie Oleksiak
Goalies
Antti Niemi
Antti Niemi

Former Oilers star Ales Hemsky will play his seventh game of the season. He missed the first four games of the season with an injury, played on October 22nd, and then had hip surgery and returned to the lineup March 2nd.

When healthy, Hemsky was one of the more exciting players in the league, especially between 2006-2011. He was one of the few players who didn’t slow down when he had the puck, and he was fearless. He never shied away from the tough areas, which likely led to his shoulder injuries. He took many hits from bigger, stronger players, but he never shied away. I hope he can remain healthy.

“I’m happy for the city,” said Hemsky when asked about the Oilers returning to the playoffs. “It was great in 2006. Every where you went everyone was talking hockey. They have a new rink and a good team again, it is great for the city and I’m happy for the people I knew here,” Hemsky said after the morning skate.

Lineups are courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com

QUICK HITS

  • The Stars have allowed four goals 12 times, five goals ten times, six goals four times and eight goals once. In 27 of their 68 games (39.7%) they’ve surrendered four or more goals.
  • The Oilers scored five in Dallas on November 19th, and tonight screams as a game the Oilers offence can bust out.
  • Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn have combined for 20 PP goals. The rest of their current lineup has 11. Patrick Eaves is no longer in Dallas, but he had eleven goals before being traded. The Stars are 30% (3 for 10) on the PP against the Oilers this season. The PK needs to improve and tonight the focus has to be on Benn and Seguin.
  • The Stars are a frustrated group. They led the west with 109 points last season and only have 64 this year. The Oilers need to jump on them early and score. Doubt can creep into the minds of losing teams much more than it will for contenders. A quick start is a must in my books.
  • The Stars are 6-17-2 when trailing after one period. The Oilers are 7-15-2, so a quick start could be crucial.
  • We will have our second annual NHL17 tournament on April 2nd. The Brick is on board again with a massive first place prize package. Last year it sold out in 45 minutes. Registration will open next Monday at 2 p.m. at Jasongregor.com. Good luck and hope to see you there.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

From Defending Big D

Season after season, the Edmonton Oilers were seemingly basement dwellers in the NHL that got lucky exactly one time a season: when the draft lottery drawing occurred.

After years of stockpiling youth, the Oilers are finally starting to be a playoff threat like many had predicted the last two seasons. They’ve been on a bit of a skid lately, however. Their recent 1-2-1 home stand, combined with the Calgary Flames’ red hot 10-game win streak, has bumped them back to the first Wild Card position.

That means they’ll be desperate for points tonight. Head coach Todd McLellan knows Dallas isn’t an easy win, though. “Dallas is an offensive time bomb,” he said. “They have the ability to explode at any point and score a ton of goals, so we’ll have our hands full with that.”

TONIGHT…

(Photoshop: @TomKostiuk)

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers take care of business and their offence breaks out in a 6-3 victory.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Hemsky scores his first goal of the season.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid picks up his first four-point game of his career. He has one five-point night, and he’s tallied three points eleven times, including a hat-trick earlier this season against the Stars. He picks up his sixth multi-goal game of his career.

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