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GDB 6.0: Just Win (6:30pm MST, SN1)

Win ugly. Win pretty. Just #@&*-ing win.

An Edmonton loss in Chicago combined with an Arizona victory versus Dallas tonight would put the Oilers in a position they’ve never been in their 38-year existence.

31st place.

That’s how bad of a start the Oilers have had, and it could get worse if they don’t wake up and stop making egregious errors.

Oilersnation could find themselves lying in the fetal position later tonight, rocking back and forth, trying to avoid nightmares of 2010-2015. When you’ve been scarred as bad as Oilers fans were during the Decade of Darkness, it is only natural that a 1-5 start would conjure up memories of past failures.

The 2010-2015 Oilers weren’t good. They simply didn’t have enough good players to compete. That isn’t the case this year.

The Oilers have a competent lineup, but right now they aren’t playing smart enough or well enough and that includes their best players.

Cam Talbot, Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson were stellar last season. Talbot was consistent in goal, while Klefbom and Larsson emerged as a solid top pair. They faced tough competition every game and rarely looked overwhelmed.

Talbot was pulled in two of his last three starts, while Klefbom and Larsson have been on for seven and eight goals against respectively, the past two games.

Of course they can play better, but the Oilers can’t afford to wait much longer for them to find their stride. It is extremely difficult to win when your starting goalie has a .880sv% and your top pair looks more like a 2010 tandem of Kurtis Foster and Theo Peckham. Not only is Klefbom struggling defensively, he’s yet to register a point offensively. Klefbom proved he has the ability to be the Oilers top defender, but early this season he has struggled. The Oilers don’t have the luxury of patiently waiting for him to find his game. He needs to focus, get back to basics and play to his capabilities.

They aren’t the only culprits in the Oilers bad start, but when you look for reasons to believe the Oilers can turn it around, the play of those three is near the top of the list. They are better than they’ve shown thus far.

NO TIME FOR A PITY PARTY

Feb 11, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (93) and Chicago Blackhawks forward Vinnie Hinostroza (48) fight during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

The NHL is ruthless. No one around the league will feel sorry for the Oilers, and they can’t avoid letting their frustration or self-doubt control their game. They made three dumb plays in the first five minutes of Tuesday’s game versus Carolina — a bad pinch and two selfish penalties — and they were down 2-0 less than five minutes into the game. Those are mental mistakes, not a lack of skill or ability. Even with injuries to Andrej Sekera and Leon Draisaitl, the Oilers have enough talent to at least be a .500 team, and probably higher.

Yesterday they said all the things you’d expect. They are hoping a road trip can bring them together. They have been their worst enemy. It’s all true, but words and actions are very different. It is only six games into the season, but the Oilers are already in “put up or shut up” territory.

Maybe a road trip will cure their woes. They were tied with the fifth most road wins in the NHL last season and they won their only game in Chicago.

They outscored teams 125-110. Their PP was 25.2% (29 of 115). Their PK was 79.3% (25 on 121 kills).

The majority of the team is still in Edmonton. Sekera’s injury was supposed to hurt the depth the Oilers, but Kris Russell has more points, three, than the rest of the Oilers D corps combined, and he and Darnell Nurse, along with Eric Gryba, have played well. The top pair has struggled, and it isn’t because they are playing more minutes with Sekera out. Klefbom and Larsson have almost the exact same TOI/game as last season.

The forwards need to start producing. Mark Letestu and Ryan Strome played their best game of the season on Tuesday and they need to continue that tonight. Connor McDavid hasn’t scored since opening night, and he hasn’t dominated like he usually does the past four games.

The list of players who have been consistent through five games is very short, and that’s why they are 1-4. The Oilers have more talent than their record shows, but when talent doesn’t work hard or play smart, it rarely wins.

The Oilers can’t keep waiting and hoping to find their game. It needs to happen tonight.

LINEUP

Oilers

Maroon-McDavid-Yamamoto
Lucic-RNH-Strome
Jokinen-Malone-Kassian
Pakarinen-Letestu-Slepyshev

Klefbom-Larsson
Nurse-Russell
Auvitu-Gryba

Talbot

The fourth line played very well on Tuesday and drew four penalties. I thought they might stick together. Khaira hasn’t played with enough desperation, intensity or consistency for a player looking to secure a regular spot in the lineup and likely why he is odd man out again.

I asked McLellan about his defence pairs yesterday and he said they would discuss their options depending on Benning’s availability. I could see him playing Nurse and Larsson together, but I’m not sure you can play Klefbom and Benning together at this point. It is unlikely they run with two righties in the third pairing, Benning and Gryba, so he might start the game similar to how they started on opening night and hope his defence corps plays up to their potential. Nurse has played quite well and shouldn’t start in the third pair, and that’s why I could see some changes. We will know more after the morning skate.

**Update*** Benning still isn’t ready to go. So the same six as last game. Auvitu and Gryba are the third pair, but I wonder if we see McLellan go away from Klefbom-Larsson if they  struggle early. They finished the Carolina game with Nurse-Larsson and Klefbom-Russell. Regardless of who plays where, Larsson and Klefbom need to be better.

Hawks

Saad-Toews-Panik
Hartman-Schmaltz-Kane
Sharp-Anisimov-Debrincat
Buoma-Wingels-Hayden

Keith-Seabrook
Forsling-Ruuta
Oesterle-Murphy

Forsberg

The Hawks lost 5-3 in St. Louis last night and it is unlikely Cory Crawford plays back-to-back, so the Oilers will face the opposition’s backup for the third consecutive game. Forsberg lost his only start, 4-3 in OT to Toronto, stopping 39 of 43 shots. Saad leads the Hawks in goals with six, while Hartman and Kane are tied for the team lead with nine points. Connor Murphy has struggled finding his ground in Chicago since coming over from Arizona for Niklas Hjarlmarsson this summer. He has sat out twice in favour of Cody Franson. Former Oilers, Jordan Oesterle will make his season debut with the Hawks tonight.

After outscoring Pittsburgh and Columbus 15-2 in their first two games, the Blackhawks offence has slowed down. They have been outscored 16-12 in their past five games and are 2-2-1 with losses to St.Louis, Minnesota and Toronto.

Lineups (subject to change) are courtesy of DailyFaceoff.com

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Blackhawk Up

Tonight, the Blackhawks welcome Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers to the United Center. Hopefully, the team is a little more awake and ready to go when the game begins.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: @TomKostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers play better and pick up a point, but lose in OT 4-3.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Chicago scores a powerplay goal.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers have been outscored 9-1 in the first period during their four-game losing streak. Russell scored 1:08 into the game versus Vancouver, but since then they’ve allowed nine first period goals without scoring one. They stun Oilersnation by scoring in the first five minutes tonight and once again it is Russell. He scores his second goal of the season leaving only Connor McDavid with more goals than Russell through five games and one period.

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Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 10/19/2017, 10:00am MST