There should be no need for a rah-rah speech by the head coach or one of the leaders. Every Oilers player should be well aware of the situation.
The Anaheim Ducks skate into Edmonton with an opportunity to crush the spirit of the Oilers and their fans for the second time in eight months.
After defeating the Oilers in seven games in the Pacific Division Final in May, the Ducks can demoralize the Oilers 2018 playoff hopes with a victory tonight.
It doesn’t take a math genius to figure out that making up 11 points in 41 games and leap-frogging five teams in the process is about as likely as the Oilers killing off five consecutive powerplays on home ice.
The Oilers have dug themselves a deep hole, and the Ducks could shovel a lot of dirt on top of Edmonton with a win tonight.
It is pretty cut and dry for the Oilers. Win. In Regulation.
Patrick Maroon is out due to his two-game suspension for his hit on Drew Doughty. Anton Slepyshev will draw in as will Matt Benning on the blueline for Brandon Davidson.
We don’t know for certain what the lines will be, but with Maroon out I’d have McDavid, Draisaitl and RNH all in my top-six. Three centres spreads out the offence too much. RNH is their leading goal scorer, so I’d try him with McDavid for a few games and see what materializes. Here is what I’d go with.
McLellan did discuss the Ducks strength down the middle so I could see him start with three centres, so with that discussion I could see it like this.
I could see switching Caggiula and Slepyshev with the hope Slepyshev will awake from his season-long slumber and play well alongside Draisaitl and Lucic like he did for a short stint in the playoffs, but that was eight months ago and so far this season Slepyshev hasn’t shown much. It is hard in a big game to promote him and hope he finds his confidence.
The Oilers need more consistency from everyone defender not named Nurse. Larsson has struggled since returning from injury, and I’d like to see him move the puck up the ice more rather than passing laterally to his partner so often. When he does that it puts the forwards out of sync. They have to regroup and now his partner has fewer options to move the puck up ice.
We know Kesler will be out against McDavid as much as possible. McDavid has eight points in eight career regular season games versus the Ducks, and while Kesler did a good job of slowing him down in the playoffs, I wouldn’t shy away from that matchup. McDavid is a competitor. He wants to face the best and beat the best.
I’d play Draisaitl at centre tonight because he is better suited physically to match up versus Getzlaf than Nugent-Hopkins is. Draisaitl has flourished against the Ducks and if I’m McLellan I’d challenge him by putting him out against Getzlaf regularly. Getzlaf is playing great and Draisaitl has the ability to counter him. Let’s see if he can.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
There will be some bad blood in this game, as the Ducks and Oilers face each other for the first time since their incredible second round playoff matchup that saw the Ducks come out victorious in Game 7.
Both teams are still very much in need of the two points. The Ducks now healthy (mostly) are playing much better and currently hold the final wild card spot in the West. The Oilers (as mentioned) are struggling to win games however, lacking depth on both offense and defense, and are nine points out of a playoff spot.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers are actually ready to play from the opening faceoff. The animosity from both teams is noticeable and the game is exciting. Oilers avoid falling off the cliff and pull out a 3-2 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Draisaitl scores. He loves playing the Ducks and scores his ninth goal in 13 career games.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: In a chippy affair Drake Caggiula and Andrew Cogliano drop the mitts, again, in a lightweight battle.
Recently by Jason Gregor:
- Game Day Quick Hits: Oilers vs. Ducks
- Chaos Theory and the Oilers
- GDB 40.0: King size challenge
- Game Day Quick Hits: Oilers vs. Kings
Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 01/04/2018 – 1:30pm MST