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GDB 76.0: Win and you’re in

A win by the Edmonton Oilers will officially clinch their first playoff berth since 2006. We all know they are going to the postseason, but for you diehard fans who have faithfully supported the Oilers during the Decade of Darkness, seeing the X beside their name in the standings will mean something.

There is no reason to delay it, and not only do the Oilers have a chance to win their way into the playoffs, they could do it on Fan Appreciation night.

They are playing one of the worst offensive teams in the NHL tonight. The Los Angeles Kings have been shutout 10 times this season, and they’ve scored only one goal in 14 other games.

In 32.4% of their games they’ve scored one goal or less.

They’ve become one of the least entertaining teams to watch in the NHL. Their players seems scared to make a mistake, and I wonder how much longer Darryl Sutter will remain the head coach. If your players are scared to make a mistake, they will rarely make a great play and when you watch the Kings they opt for the safe, boring play far too often. The NHL is a possession game and the days of chip and chase are no longer the norm. Of course at times you have to do it, but defencemen are faster and better at going back to get the puck and moving it quickly and accurately before the forechecker can create a turnover.

The Kings have to change their style if they want to compete, and right now they can’t handle the speed of the Oilers.

The Oilers have enough size to battle along the boards and in front of the goal for loose pucks. Last week the Oilers defence did a masterful job of out-battling the Kings in front of the net. The Kings shoot from everywhere and their strategy is to win battles for rebounds, but the problem is far too often this year they haven’t won those battles or had players in position to get to the free pucks. Their belief of quantity over quality has really skewed their shot totals and possession numbers.

The Kings are a prime example that possession is not automatic solely because you direct more shots on goal. The majority of their shot attempts are low percentage and it is why they 26th in goals scored.

The Oilers have more skill. They have more speed and tonight they can officially punch their ticket to the dance with a victory. The players are excited about it and as Cam Talbot said, “The fans have been waiting for a winner. It would be fitting to clinch a spot on fan appreciation night. Hopefully we can do that for them.”

It’s the least the organization can do.

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
Drake Caggiula
Drake Caggiula
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
Eric Gryba
Eric Gryba
Goalies
Cam Talbot
Cam Talbot

Three changes for the Oilers. Cam Talbot is back in goal, Anton Slepyshev is in for Jujhar Khaira and Eric Gryba is back in. Matt Benning skated this morning, but they will wait until Thursday or Saturday to play him.

Kings

LW C RW
Dustin Brown
Dustin Brown
Anze Kopitar
Anze Kopitar
Jarome Iginla
Jarome Iginla
Tanner Pearson
Tanner Pearson
Jeff Carter
Jeff Carter
Tyler Toffoli
Tyler Toffoli
Andy Andreoff
Andy Andreoff
Nic Dowd
Nic Dowd
Brodzinski Jonny
Brodzinski Jonny
Adrian Kempe
Adrian Kempe
Trevor Lewis
Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford
Kyle Clifford
Defensive Pairings
Derek Forbort
Derek Forbort
Drew Doughty
Drew Doughty
Jake Muzzin
Jake Muzzin
Paul Ladue
Paul Ladue
Brayden McNabb
Brayden McNabb
Alec Martinez
Alec Martinez
Goalies
Jonathan Quick
Jonathan Quick

The Kings have been shutout in two of the last three games, including a 2-0 loss last Monday in Edmonton. Sutter has tried different combos, but hasn’t found much success.

QUICK HITS

  • An Oilers victory would give them 42 wins on the season, the most they’ve had since 1988 and eighth most in franchise history.
  • Todd McLellan will become only the second head coach in Oilers history with 42 wins in a season after the Oilers next victory. Glen Sather won 44, 47, 48, 49, 50, 56 and 57 between 1982-1988.
  • Tonight is Jarome Iginla’s 100th career game versus the Oilers. He has had one point 32 times, two points eleven times, three points six times, four points three times and five points once. He has 38 goals and 89 points in 99 games. His team is 53-38-3 with five ties (he was in the league when they still had ties). Iginla is a guaranteed Hall of Famer and I wonder if this will be his last NHL game in Edmonton. Regardless if he plays again next season or not, he’ll go down as one of the best Edmonton area (St.Albert) players of all time with the likes of Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr and Johnny Bucyk. He’s had a stellar career.
  • Iginla has had seven fights versus the Oilers. His first tilt was against Dean McCammond on February 5th, 1997. Then he fought Drake Berehowsky, Cory Cross, Ethan Moreau, Ladislav Smid, Sheldon Souray and Patrick Maroon last week. He has had 73 NHL regular season fights and four in the playoffs, including three in 2004 when the Flames went to game seven of the Stanley Cup Finals.
  • Iginla is currently 13th all-time in games played, 1546, and he will pass Alex Delvecchio for 12th, 1549, before the season ends. He is currently 16th all-time in goals with 622. Joe Sakic is 15th with 625. Iginla is 34th all-time in points with 1295.
  • Health matters. Seven Oilers have played all 75 games this season — their top-two lines (19 97, 29, 27, 93 14) and Oscar Klefbom. Andrej Sekera has missed two games, Adam Larsson, Zack Kassian and Mark Letestu  have missed three (Letestu was a healthy scratch for two). Cam Talbot has been healthy all season and is on pace to start over 70 games. The Oilers have improved, but it sure helps your chances of success when your top two lines, three of your four top D-men and your starting goalie are healthy all season.
  • The Oilers have signed free agent college winger Joseph Gambardella to a two-year ELC. He played four years UMass-Lowell. He had 18 goals and 52 points in 41 games this year. He is a 5’10”, 200 pounds. He isn’t a physical player, but has some skill. He turned 23 in December and shoots left. He will sign an ATO (amateur tryout) later this week once his exams are over and report to Bakersfield. He needs to work on his skating, but he’s highly skilled he will give them some skilled depth in the AHL next season.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING

From LA Kings Insider

Tonight marks the third time the Kings have played in the Oilers’ new home, so it was worth asking around to get a sense of the feel the players receive from the arena. “It’s a good atmosphere for a new building,” Dustin Brown said. “Some of these new buildings you go into, and the atmosphere is better than some of the newer buildings I’ve been in, partly and probably because of the excitement around the team. The ice is good.” Keep in mind that the Rexall Place ice surface was often referred to as one of the best in the league 10 years ago. “My first game in Rexall was really good and I think it wavered, kind of. I mean, it’s all relative. I play in Staples 41 times a year, so anything’s good,” he said. Interestingly, Brown referenced Gila River Arena as having very good ice, which he credited to the lack of humidity in Arizona.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: @TomKostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers fans celebrate their return to the playoffs. The Oilers win 4-1 and the Decade of Darkness is officially over. Wanye Gretz sheds a tear.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Leon Draisaitl stretches his point streak to eight games. He has seven points in his last seven games versus LA, and continues his quest for a $1.625 million bonus.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Kris Russell is on a three-game point scoring streak. He matches his career-high four-game point streak with another assist tonight.

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