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Photo Credit: isuckatpicking

GDB 79.0: Road Win leads to Home Ice

We love HOME games; have Liquor Depot deliver in under an hour. Click, pick, sit back and watch the game. 

The Edmonton Oilers can secure home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs by playing well on their final three-game road trip of the season. Edmonton is one of eight teams who will play three road games in the final week of the season, and the good news for Oilersnation is the Oilers are the third best road team in the Western Conference (20-13-5) this season.

The most surprising stat connected to the Oilers is their dominance in the Western Conference. Edmonton has the best record against the West in the entire NHL. The Oilers are 30-10-6 versus the West and their 66 points tops Chicago’s 64 (30-13-4), Minnesota’s 63 (29-14-5) and Anaheim’s 61 (27-13-7). And the Oilers have a game in-hand on those three.

Their remarkable turn around is due to their success within their division and conference, and if they continue their strong inter-division road play then they should open up the 2017 playoffs on home ice.

The Oilers will be gunning for their fourth consecutive victory over the Los Angeles Kings. They haven’t won four in a row over LA since 1987. They won their final two games of the 1986/1987 season and then the first two in the 1987/1988 season. They haven’t defeated the Kings four times in a row in the same season since December 20th, 1985 to March 9th, 1986.

Edmonton has dominated their division rivals to the tune of 17-5-3, and with four divisional games remaining they, along with Montreal and Chicago, could become the only teams with 20 victories within their division. The Habs have 18 win with three division games remaining, while the Blackhawks have 19 wins versus the Central with one game left against Colorado.

The Oilers control their own destiny. If they win out the season they will finish first in the Pacific. If they win three of their final four games, then Anahiem has to go 2-0-1 or 3-0-0 to beat them. The Oilers have a lot to play for and head coach Todd McLellan said he won’t make any major roster moves, resting top-nine forwards or top-five defenders, until the weekend at the earliest. They are focused on finishing as high as they can and McLellan doesn’t want his team to take their foot off the gas.

It is the right strategy. This team isn’t a veteran group blessed with an abundance of playoff savvy and experience, so home ice advantage could be a big deal for them. Milan Lucic believes home ice will be massive and could be the difference in winning or losing the first round.

“With our homestand in March you could see the fans have gotten into it a lot more. I think they are really starting to embrace our team and as a player you love having that energy and that feel from them to feed off of. I’m saying that as an encouraging thing because sometimes we can just rely on them to get us going. We’ve felt that the last month and a half and I’m excited to see them raise it to another level when the real games start,” Lucic said yesterday before flying to Los Angeles.

The Oilers can open the playoffs at home for the first time since 1990, if they take care of business on this road trip. After speaking with numerous players yesterday I didn’t get the sense they are satisfied. Their original goal was to make the playoffs, but now they see home ice advantage is within their grasp, so they’ve re-adjusted their goal and are focused on opening up the postseason at home.

Their overall division record is solid. And league-wide they’ve been very good on the road. However, they are 6-4-2 in road games versus the Pacific Division. I believe they need two road wins on this trip to be in a position to clinch first or second in the division in their final game of the season at home on April 9th.

Now is not the time to let up, especially against a Los Angeles team that was just eliminated from the playoffs two days ago.

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

The roster has only seen two changes the past nine games. Anton Slepyshev, five games, Matt Hendricks two games and Iiro Pakarinen and Jujhar Khaira have rotated between one spot on the fourth line. The third pairing right defence spot has seen Matt Benning dress five times and Eric Gryba in four games. Hendricks and Gryba played versus Anaheim, but Hendricks only played three minutes versus Anaheim, as McLellan relied heavily on his top two lines, so I’d lean to an Anton Sleypyshev return. Eric Gryba has two goals this season and both have come against LA. You might have to keep the hot hand in the lineup.

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

It will be interesting to see if Darryl Sutter plays some young players a bit more down the stretch. However, it is clear he won’t just hand them icetime based on his comments yesterday.

“The last game we were in Edmonton, we had guys that couldn’t be on the ice when some of their guys were on the ice. It’s got nothing to do with age. If it was just about age, then we’d be talking about Jarome (Iginla) and Jonny (Brodzinski). One guy’s 39, one guy’s 23. It’s still important to win. You learn how to lose, too. I haven’t been in that position, so I’m not going to let these guys do it. I had to do it as a young player, and I had to learn how to win,” said Sutter.

The Kings won’t just roll over if their coach gets his way.

QUICK HITS

  • “Looking at things coming into the season I saw us fighting for a wildcard spot at this time of the year, but the fact we have raised our level and the expectation now is fighting for the division lead and it is a fun thing to be a part of,” said Milan Lucic. I was in the same boat in October. I didn’t see them being a 100-point team and battling for the division.
  • I asked Lucic which things he noticed about the team’s play which allowed them to exceed his expectations. “I think our ability to believe in the system and play a certain way all year. There has been points in the season where our game could have slipped and gone back to how things were in the past, but we rectified it before it got too bad. It shows maturity, character and we are now a team that can fight for the division year in and year out. It was a good growth year,” Lucic explained.
  • The Oilers finally re-assigned Jujhar Khaira to Bakersfield. He needs to play. He has only played 10 games since January 12th. He missed a month due to an injury in that time, but since returning in February he has played just over 72 minutes of NHL hockey. He needs to play and I would have sent him down a few weeks ago, but better late than never. He will help Bakersfield and he’ll jump into a playoff run down there so it will a good experience.
  • Connor McDavid leads the NHL with 65 assists. The leading scorer on 13 teams (BUFF, CAR, CBJ, FLO, NJ, NYR, PHIL, ARI, COL, CGY, LAK, NSH & VAN) has fewer than 65 points.
  • McDavid and Leon Draisaitl need six points each to reach 100 and 80 points respectively. Vincent Damphousse (89) and Joe Murphy (82) in 1992 were the last Oilers teammates to have 80+ points in the same season.
  • Do you like pools? Do you like money? I have teamed up with DraftKings to make a Masters Pool. It is free to play and the 1st place wins $1000. Enter here. Get in before Wednesday at midnight.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: @TomKostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers have lost 10 straight in LA and have been outscored 41-15, but 2017 is a new year. The Kings can’t handle the Oilers speed and Edmonton wins their first game in Los Angeles since November 3rd, 2011 by a score of 3-1.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid and Draisaitl extend their point-streaks to eleven games.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Jordan Eberle scores a goal. He only has three goals in 24 career games versus the Kings.

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