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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 66.0: Date with the desert dogs (7pm MST, SNW)

The Arizona Coyotes are within eight points of the Edmonton Oilers after going 8-5-1 in their last fourteen games. With 16 games remaining in the season, the Oilers have just as good a chance to drop in the standings as they do to climb up. They are eight points ahead of 31st-place Arizona and they are eight points back of the New York Islanders and New York Rangers for 22nd and 23rd place.

The Oilers are virtually assured to finish in the bottom ten of the league for the ninth time in the last ten years. That is not a misprint. They were 21st in 2009, 30th in 2010 and 2011, 29th in 2012, 24th in 2013, 28th in 2014 and 2015, 29th in 2016, 8th last year and will finish no better than 22nd this season.

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The Oilers have a total of 688 points in the past decade. Buffalo is 29th with 740 points. And only Colorado (767), Carolina (788), Florida (783), Arizona (776) and Toronto (778) are within a 100 points.

Washington (995) and Pittsburgh (988) have the most, and they are averaging 30 more points per season.

Some might argue it is unfair to this group to go back an entire decade. Okay, then let’s look at point totals since the start of 2015/2016 season. The Oilers have amassed 231 points. Only Arizona (198), Vancouver (201), Colorado (206), Buffalo (210) and New Jersey (228) have accumulated fewer points.

The Oilers are still one of the worst organizations in the NHL. The numbers don’t lie.

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The final 16 games won’t mean much in the standings, other then shuffling around odds for the draft lottery, but this team cant keep waiting until next year to improve. You’d like to see some signs of improvement now.

Every player, coach, scout and member of management should be evaluated. The list of players with little to prove is extremely short after Connor McDavid, and McDavid is the one who has been playing lights out despite having little to play for. You’d hope the rest of his teammates would match his determination.

And the entire group needs to be better defensively. Moving Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to the wing alongside is McDavid is something I’d like to see, but it won’t solve the bigger issues on this team. They have been extremely porous defensively, starting with Cam Talbot and moving through the defence and forwards. They have made some egregious decisions with the puck and without it, and improving team defence is often based simply on hard work and a willingness to do it. We’ll see if they show it tonight.

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LINEUP…

Oilers

Lucic-McDavid-Draisaitl
Cammalleri-RNH-Aberg
Puljujarvi-Strome-Slepyshev
Caggiula-Khaira-Pakarinen

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Nurse-Russell
Klefbom-Bear
Sekera-Benning

Talbot

Adam Larsson was on the ice this morning, but after traveling home to Sweden to bury his father he needs a few more days of skating and rest to be ready. Todd McLellan said he’ll be available on Thursday. Drake Caggiula draws back in, and it looks like Zack Kassian might be out. No official word, but McLellan said there would be some lineup changes. Unless Kassian is sick, he’d be in my lineup every night.

I asked McLellan about moving RNH to the wing. “He hasn’t played much lately. He was tired at the end of some shifts after being out for six weeks. We’ll let him get comfortable,” said McLellan. Playing with McDavid would mean more minutes and getting back into game shape isn’t that easy, so I can understand if the coach waits a few more games, but in two or three more games he should try RNH on the wing. I see no reason not to make the move.

Coyotes

Perlini-Stepan-Keller
Domi-Dvorak-Fischer
Panik-Hamilton-Archibald
Martinook-Richardson-Cousins

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Ekman-Larsson/Demers
Chychrun-Hjalmarsson
Connauton-Schenn

Raanta

Alex Goligoski didn’t make the trip. He and his wife are expecting their second child any day. They recalled Andrew Campbell from the AHL, but Luke Schenn will play his first game after being a healthy scratch for 11 straight. He’ll be paired with red-hot Kevin Connauton. The Edmonton resident has six goals in his last 14 games.

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TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Ryan Strome picks up his 100th career assist and the Oilers win their fourth straight at home versus the Coyotes 3-2.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid continues his goal scoring streak and buries his second career goal versus the Coyotes and sets a new career-high with 31.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oscar Klefbom scores his first goal since December 9th a span of 33 games.

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Source: Jason Gregor, Verified Twitter Account, 3/05/2018 – 2:00 pm MST