Confidence, momentum, consistency, attention to detail and a portion of luck lead to winning streaks in the NHL. Since Ken Hitchcock was hired the Oilers are 8-2-1, their second 8-2-1 stretch of the season in fact, and have been one of the best teams in the NHL.
They picked the perfect time to play well, because their 17 points are sixth best in the NHL since November 19th, and three Pacific Division foes are in the top five. Tampa Bay is 10-2, Calgary is 9-2-1, Washington and Anaheim are 9-2, while Vegas is 9-3. Over the past 24 days the Oilers have righted their ship and been able to keep pace in the suddenly surging Pacific Division, and they’ve accomplished that playing against some good teams. All their opponents over the past 11 games, except St.Louis, are among the top 16 in points accumulated since November 19th.
And tonight they face another strong test against the Jets, who have the seventh most points, 16, since November 19th, and I’m certain they remember blowing a three-goal, third period lead at home to Edmonton on October 16th.
The Jets are a very good team with a lot of depth, especially on the blueline. Their entire top-six is healthy again and currently Tyler Myers is in their third pair, because Jacob Trouba and Dustin Byfuglien are the top-two right defenders. Talk about a plethora of quality right shot defenders. Toss in Josh Morrissey, who is arguably their most consistent defender, Dmitri Kulikov and Ben Chairot, and it is easy to see why the Jets are a Stanley Cup contender.
They also have six legit top-six forwards on their top two lines.
This will be a monumental test for the Oilers defence core with Oscar Klefbom and Kris Russell out of the lineup. Caleb Jones and his sticks arrived in Winnipeg last night, but as of this morning’s skate his hockey bag had yet to arrive. Because of that we will likely see Jason Garrison and Chris Wideman in the third pair tonight.
Cam Talbot is going to be tested often, I suspect, and he might need to mirror Mikko Koskinen’s first 35 minutes in Colorado on Tuesday, when he stoned the Avalanche until the Oilers forwards woke up and pumped in four goals in just over seven minutes in the second period. Talbot has played very well in his previous two starts and if he wants to get starts every two or three games he will need another strong performance.
Captain obvious points out the blueline isn’t ideal. Nurse and Larsson will play a lot tonight, but if the Oilers find themselves behind a few goals I’m interested to see if Trent Yawney keeps them around 25 minutes, instead of closer to 30, with a game tomorrow in Edmonton. Playing back-to-back games in Winnipeg and Edmonton is a tough go due to the travel time.
The Oilers had to make a roster move to activate Tobias Rieder, so they placed Kris Russell on IR, meaning he is out for both games this weekend as well. Taking Zykov and Rattie out of the lineup were pretty easy decisions at this point. Zykov has no shots in three games and doesn’t skate well enough for me. Hitchcock isn’t the biggest fan of Rattie, and I’m not sure he will get much of an opportunity unless we see some injuries.
Once again the Jets have five forwards on pace for 55+ points. Wheeler leads them with 5-33-38, while Patrik Laine has 21 goals and Mark Schiefele has 17. The Jets PP is best in the NHL at 30.3%. The Oilers just faced Colorado, who were first on the PP entering Tuesday’s game, and allowed only one goal on six chances. The Oilers need to limit their penalties tonight, especially with Klefbom and Russell out of the lineup. Russell is second on the Oilers in PK TOI with 65 minutes, while Klefbom is fourth at 59. Kevin Gravel (19min) and Matt Benning (30min) will see more PK work tonight.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
Jets to watch: #17 Adam Lowry – Center
Son Of Dave is one point away from 100 in his NHL career and it’s still a little bit amazing at times that he is still a Winnipeg Jet when you consider that two short seasons ago he was practically on everyone’s short list of players that should be offered up to the Vegas Golden Knights.
His scoring numbers have dipped a slight bit this season as he’s become primarily the team’s go-to defensive center, but four of his last six games have seen him be a bit more agressive with scoring chances with three registered shots on goal – he had gone 12 previous games managing one or no shots at all – and while the offense is starting to come around, he’s remained a steady presence on a Jets third line that has seen it’s share of different linemates over the last few weeks.
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Jets offence combined with a depleted Oilers blueline equals a 4-2 Jets victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Laine scores a PP goal.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The “Grindentity” line scores again. People flood his twitter with suggestions for a goal song for the trio. He hates the name, and while fans are upset about the loss they take some solace in pressuring Nielson to make a Grindentity song.
MONTH OF GIVING…
Thank you Richard and Lucas for their great bids and to A1Heating and Urban Tavern for the awesome packages.
DAY NINE: Gas and Hockey courtesy of Hughes
- $1,000 in Hughes Gift cards to be used for fuel or car washes.
- Four tickets in their Theatre Box at Rogers Place on January 1st at 2 p.m. for the Edmonton Oil Kings. It includes dinner and an underground parking pass.
- Pair of seats to Oilers/Canucks (row 22) on December 27th.
You can bid by listening to TSN 1260 and calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260 between 2-6 p.m. today.
Thanks in advance. All proceeds will help out Santas Anonymous.
Package #2: Pyramid of Giving
Adopt-A-Teen Edmonton is well short of their fundraising goal. They supply a $50 gift card to teens so they don’t go without at Christmas. Being a teenager is tough. You are trying to figure out who you are, dealing with hormones, relationships and at times it is very awkward time of our life. We do a lot for kids at Christmas, but many teenagers are left out and today we will help them.
We will have a pyramid of giving.
Eight people will donate $100
Six people will donate $200
Four people will donate $500
One person will donate $1000
We will raise $5000 and help 100 teens today. You can be part of the Pyramid by texting your donation to 101260 between 2-6 p.m today.