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Photo Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 34.0: A New Rival? (7pm MST, SNW)

The Oilers knocked the San Jose Sharks out of the playoffs last year. It was their first playoff meeting in eleven years. These teams have never had a fierce rivalry, and I’m not sure one playoff series will suddenly ignite it, but there should be a bit more animosity in the season series now. Rivalries are ignited in the playoffs, and while the Sharks are not a physical, nasty team like the Anaheim Ducks, and don’t have a lot of players Oilersnation likes to hate, tonight should have a bit more edge than what we’ve seen in the past.

This edition of the Oilers has proven they play better in emotional games and they are much improved in divisional games. The Oilers were 19-6-3 last year vs. the Pacific and they are 4-1 so far this season.

Their recent dominance in the division is the main reason I haven’t ruled them out of making a run to the playoffs. They need a lot to go their way, but they have 24 division games remaining, starting tonight vs. the Sharks.

The Oilers trail the Sharks, who are third in the Pacific, by eight points. A regulation victory would move them within six points of the Sharks, while a loss drops them ten back. These divisional games are massive, and while “Bettman’s loser point” has skewed the “four-point” game scenario, the Oilers not only need a victory tonight, they need one in regulation. Gaining one point on the Sharks, while better than losing one or two, is not what the Oilers need. They need to gain two points, and they also need to show up on home ice.

They’ve lost four of their last five at home, and they needed overtime to defeat the 31st place Coyotes 3-2. They’ve been outscored 20-10 in that span. They’ve allowed seven powerplay goals on 15 kills (46.7%) and their powerplay is only 1-for-13 (7.7%). They did play better vs. Nashville, setting a franchise record for most shots on goal while being shutout (46), but home ice has been anything but nice thus far.

They can’t change the past, they can only focus on tonight and ensuring they remember how to win, and play well, on home ice. They’ve won four in a row with Cam Talbot in goal and Adam Larsson returns to the lineup for the first time since he allegedly tweaked his back sleeping. He missed eight games.

LINEUP…

Oilers

Lucic-McDavid-Puljujarvi
Maroon-RNH-Caggiula
Khaira-Draisaitl-Strome
Walker-Letestu-Kassian

Nurse-Russell
Klefbom-Larsson
Davidson-Benning

Talbot

Just a guess on where Larsson plays. Head coach Todd McLellan wouldn’t say where he would play, but Auvitu is the easy decision to take out. You could slot Larsson in with Davidson to start and not disrupt the top two pairs, or put Larsson back with Klefbom. Those two have played together a lot the past 115 games so reuniting them wouldn’t be much of a risk. Jason Strudwick brought up a very interesting point about Klefbom/Larsson. He felt they were struggling this year, because too often they would make an extra D to D pass, instead of moving the puck up ice. He wanted them to be more decisive and move the puck up quicker, instead of going cross-ice as often as they have been. It is something to watch for if they are back together tonight.

Anton Slepyshev was sent to the AHL to make room for Larsson on the 23-man roster. Slepyshev doesn’t require waivers so no risk he gets claimed. Nathan Walker will draw in for Mike Cammalleri, but I’m just guessing at projected lines. Walker isn’t as offensively skilled as Caggiula so I wouldn’t play him on Nugent-Hopkins’ line, but we’ll find out in warmup where he slots in. The fourth line has seen a rotation of wingers on the left side for the past few games so moving Walker in and Caggiula up shouldn’t impact any perceived chemistry.

I’m perplexed by the vast majority of people believing Mark Letestu is the main culprit for the Oilers PP woes. If you put Jesse Puljujarvi in his spot, why will that suddenly change what Draisaitl, Lucic and Klefbom are doing? Letestu has six PP points. He had 14 last year. He is on pace for the exact same. Draisaitl had 27 points last year, Lucic had 25 and Klefbom had 16. This year Draisaitl has two (no goals), Klefbom has three and Lucic has five.

It makes no sense to continually be yelling for Puljujarvi to replace Letestu and imply that will instantly solve the problems. I don’t see how Letestu’s presence is negatively impacting the others, especially Klefbom and Draisaitl who touch the puck way more frequently. I understand the frustration with the powerplay, but pointing it at Letestu, seems to be pointing at the wrong problem. I realize he is the easy target, because he isn’t the big-name player, but I don’t see how replacing him will magically make the PP click. I could be wrong, but unless Puljujarvi can convince them to stop over passing and shoot when they are in a good spot, I don’t see that switch automatically improving the powerplay. Letestu is at least producing powerplay points.

Sharks

Karlsson-Thornton-Pavelski
Donskoi-Tierney-Meier
Boedker-Hertl-Labanc
Hansen-O’Regan-Ward

Dillon-Burns
Vlasic-Braun
Demelo-Heed

Jones

Logan Couture is out for sure and yesterday at Sharks practice they ran those top three lines. Hertl moved back to centre and Peter Deboer reunited the Donskoi-Tierney-Meier line. Donskoi and Tierney are tied for second on the Sharks with eight goals behind Couture’s fifteen. The Sharks will look for them to continue scoring. Deboer said there will be some game time decisions, so this fourth line and D pairs could look different at game time.

We all saw how well Marc-Edouard Vlasic defended Connor McDavid in the playoffs last year. McDavid will want the challenge of facing them tonight so I doubt McLellan tries too hard to get his line away from that duo. McDavid had 4-4-8 in five games vs. the Sharks last season.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers have won five times in 15 home games. They are on pace for 14 home wins. During the decade of Darkness only once did they win fewer than 15 games. In 2011 they went 13-22-6. This team is better than those teams, no question, but they need to start showing it at home. My head says they can’t possibly continue to be this bad at home, but I’ve seen them soil the sheets at home after solid road games too often this season to be confident. If Couture was playing I’d pick the Sharks, but since he isn’t I’ll take Oilers 4-2.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Burns only has two goals in his last 12 games vs. the OIlers, but he has eleven points. He continues to rebound from a slow start and produces another point.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Sharks don’t score a powerplay goal despite having multiple PP opportunities. The Oilers have allowed an opposing powerplay goal in 11 of 15 home games. In two other games they didn’t take a penalty and in the home opener vs. Calgary the Flames had one power play.  The only game this year where the opposition had multiple power plays, four, and they didn’t score was when the Oilers crushed Vegas 8-2.

MONTH OF GIVING….

Thank you to Darcy for his generous $7600 bid and to Ed and everyone at The Golf Cart People for the great package.

Day 12: Package #1: A one-year membership at Blackhawk Golf Course courtesy of Al Prokop.

 

Blackhawk873 copy

  • As a private club usually you are required to buy a share which is currently $25,000, however the club has generously bypassed this so the winner will be just like any other member for a year.
  • The successful bidder will receive full unrestricted golf playing privileges for the 2018 season including club storage, locker room access, use of practice range and short game area as well as clubhouse account for all purchases. The bidder will also be entitled to bring guests as per the Club’s standard guest policy.

Package #2: Courtesy of Al Prokop & Executive Chef Andrew Fung from XIX (Nineteen).

XIX-Nineteen-Edmonton-1

  • Dinner for two each month of 2018 at the great restaurant XIX (Nineteen).
  • You and a friend will play a round of golf at Blackhawk with Prokop and an Edmonton-based NHLer, either Chimera, Phaneuf or Ennis or others.

Dinner will include appetizers, entree, dessert, cocktails and wine pairing and can be at either the Terwillegar or St.Albert locations. Last year XIX, was recognized as one of Alberta’s top new restaurants.

You can bid by listening to my show on TSN 1260 and calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260 between 2-6 p.m. today.

Thanks in advance. All proceeds will help out The Christmas Bureau.

GDB BROUGHT TO YOU BY COLLIN BRUCE MORTGAGE TEAM

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Source:  Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 12/16/2017 – 2:00pm MST 

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    That Sharks-Oilers series last playoffs was fun to watch. I remember listening some guys on a podcast talk about Edmonton needing to shut down Burns to have a chance at winning the series. And shut him down they did. I think Burn only finished with 3 assists (all coming in Game 4). That series was fun for sure. BUt not rivalry worthy. The Ducks one did though (especially because we were jobbed by the refs). That’s the game I’m looking forward to

  • geoilersgist

    Didn’t realize Dadbot had won 4 in a row. The team in general has been way better the last week and a bit. If they can keep it up I see them walking away with a win tonight. I will even go so far as to guess that they score a PPG tonight.

  • DerpSolo

    Oilers 6 sharks 4. Oilers go 2/2 on the pp, but get killed on the pk, allowing 2pp goals. McDavid records 3 pts, Draisaitl gets a pp goal. Talbot saves 35 of 39, oilers only get 26 shots. Kris Russell records 5 blks, and Larsson gets two secondary assists. Oilers continue to struggle with breakouts and turning the puck over

  • The Future Never Comes

    Saying “it makes no sense to change out Letestu for Pulju” is a little bit over board. I could very easily argue for a few reasons: A) he has a much larger frame/ reach for puck scrambles on his side or behind the net B) He is quicker on his feet for puck retrievals C) Put points aside, Letestu coughs up the puck quite often on the PP where the other team ices D) He hasn’t been getting his one timer off anyways E) Jesse, Connor, and Lucic have been building chemistry- why not continue it with the other team down a man F) Jesse’s decision making has gotten better every game, and he has been scoring in tight with his big body G) That first PP unit has not been scoring anyways as of recent, so really what’s the point of this repetition… I can keep going but I don’t want to write an essay.

  • Serious Gord

    I don’t know why people focus on making sure they win in regulation against western/pacific foes.

    At this point the Oilers should have only one focus short-term – winning the game that’s next. Long-term only the total points usually required to make the playoffs should be the focus – 96 points.

    Everything else is irrelevant. As I type this that means they need to earn 66 points in 49 games – a .673 winning percentage.

    • Hemmercules

      Irrelevant? Why wouldn’t you focus on winning in regulation to western foes? Every point you give away to a western team is a point you have to gain back to jump those teams later on. If you keep can the points down in the west, less than 96 could get you in.

      • Serious Gord

        There are several other teams vying for that last spot – the bar typically is 96. No way the oil will be able to single-handedly keep the rest of the west down. A win of any kind is enough – just get the most points possible.

  • Alberta Ice

    Yes, this is a must win. Next game is Saturday? That means the Pacific Division ‘herd’ could really move ahead which would be even more disheartening.

    • Alberta Ice

      Good news. The little upcoming games memo above the comments line on ON left out a game against St. Louis on Dec. 21. A win streak now would really help to keep up with the herd or even edge closer.

    • DerpSolo

      Did you see him on Saturday loving up Alex Stalock, the former sharks netminder? Now he gets to see his favourite team play 2nite, I might just mute the TV

  • Randaman

    Just a question regarding removing Letestu from the #1 PP unit (if you can call it that). Who would you remove Jason? McDavid? NO! Draisaitl? NO! Lucic? Maybe but net front presence needs to be there.

    What you are saying is don’t change anything? Removing Woodcroft is my suggestion because this was a problem way before this year.

    • BobbyCanuck

      Soon, sometime after we go 0-50 on the powerplay, you will see what I mean about McSaviour passes the puck too much on the PP and needs an attitude adjustment, notice how he passes the puck and the other players just pass it back to him in deference to his skill set, which is fine…but why did he pass it to you in the first place?

    • Disappointed

      My name is not Jason but if you want my opinion, I would switch Drai for Nuge. Nuge has a great sniper like shot, quick off his stick, just what a pp needs. Drai and Connor play well together when they have lots of room to skate. Our pp is very static, dosen’t need two guys who see the ice real well, seperate them.

  • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    “I’m perplexed by the vast majority of people believing Mark Letestu is the main culprit for the Oilers PP woes. ”

    My answer would be because he don’t think the offensive game as quickly as he needs to when it comes to playmaking on the pp. He can one-time and take the off-wing shots, sure, but I’m never really comfortable when he’s got to make a move to make a pass or speed the pass to an open man. Too often it becomes a pass that leaves the zone. That’s not to dis ML’s work in other parts of the game or his specific value in shooting from the off-wing (better than Eberle last year), but that’s not enough to stay on for the first 75 seconds of the pp. Besides, what would it hurt to at least try Jesse up there?

  • slats-west

    I find it unbelievable how on every close call or play by the opposition how quick Remenda goes against the Oilers. Take the delay of game call – “Nope the Oilers are not going to get that” …..oh wait It is a penalty. Someone remind him he works for ROGERS SPORTSNET – like the name on the outside of the ring. JackA$$!

  • hagar

    Only Drew can make me annoyed no matter what he does. I get super annoyed when he talks, and in some crazy drew only world he annoys me when he mumbles too quiet to make out. Like I know I don’t want to hear what he is saying, but it’s still bothersome.