The Edmonton Oilers are back in action tonight as they face off against the Arizona Coyotes for the first time this season. Both teams are coming into tonight’s matchup having lost their last game (or six), and we’re only a few hours away from finding out which club gets a fresh start in 2019 and which one will have some of that 2018 sadness carrying over.
Could a new year bring a new start for the Edmonton Oilers? We can only hope, considering they finished 2018 riding a six-game losing streak that has not only knocked them out of a playoff spot but also into a dangerous and scary world where the GM is making deals to save his job. It’s actually mind blowing that this is where we’re at again in January, but all we can do at this point is hope that there’s still enough time to get things turned around. Gord knows, it won’t be easy. Heading into this first matchup of the season against the Coyotes, the Oilers look about as fragile as they ever could be. Two of their best defencemen are out for who knows how long, they’re bleeding defensively, only three guys can put the puck in the net with any regularity, and the goaltenders haven’t been able to bail their team out when the walls cave in. The Oilers have allowed 35 goals over their last eight games since Oscar Klefbom and Kris Russell have been out and it’s pretty tough to win in the NHL when you’re giving up four per night.
The bright side is that the tonight’s opponent doesn’t score a whole lot, which is good news considering the Oilers need all the help they can get to try and end this losing streak. With Brad Richardson leading the team with only 10 goals, Arizona’s roster won’t bull you over with offence, but the problem is that they also don’t give up a whole lot either. In spite of their offensive struggles, the Coyotes are tied for the Pacific Division lead in terms of Goals Against and that’ll be a challenge for the offensively-starved Oilers who are having a tough time finding goals from anyone not named McDavid, Draisaitl, or Nugent-Hopkins. Over the current six-game losing streak, that trio has produced 11 of the Oilers’ 15 goals, and I don’t think I have to mention to anyone reading this how this is simply not good enough. At some point, other players on this hockey team have to find a way to contribute with more than hits or the Oilers are going to continue sinking to the bottom of the ocean despite the best efforts of their three best players.
As far as must-win games go, tonight’s dance with the Coyotes certainly qualifies as it marks the first of four-straight road games against Pacific Division opponents. To put it mildly, the Oilers have to find a way to win at all costs and set themselves up with something positive to start off this week on the road. They have to be able to take advantage of teams like the Coyotes that are below them in the standings (though, admittedly that list is dwindling as the days go on here), rather than playing down to their level. Even with the injuries on the back end, the Oilers have the higher end players and there’s no reason that they shouldn’t be able to get themselves two points out of this game before they head to California to finish off their road trip. Looking at the schedule, there won’t be a better opportunity to get back on track than they have tonight in Arizona. While the end of 2018 is certainly not what anyone would have wanted, maybe a week on the road is what the doctor ordered to get things back on track.
|LAST 10 GAMES||3-6-1||4-6-0|
|EXPECTED GOALS FOR%||48.45||46.54|
Numbers courtesy of Corsica (fancies at 5×5)
Draisaitl – McDavid – Kassian
Lucic – RNH – Puljujarvi
Rieder – Khaira – Spooner
Gambardella – Brodziak – Rattie
Jones – Larsson
Nurse – Petrovic
Manning – Benning
The Oilers tried out some new line trios at practice yesterday as Ken Hitchcock continues to pull out the blender in the hopes of sparking some offence. With the bulk of the goals coming from only three players, it seems like Hitch is going with any idea he can possibly think of to try and squeeze more blood out of this stone and it will be interesting to see if these new combinations will finally be the ones that can get the job done. At the time of posting, there has been no indication on who will start in net tonight so I’m only guessing that it will be Talbot for now. I’ll be sure to swing back in and update things as news comes out.
***UPDATE*** According to Jack Michaels, Mikko Koskinen gets the start in net for the Oilers.
Galchenyuk – Schmaltz – Hinostroza
Panik – Stepan – Keller
Crouse – Cousins – Archibald
Garland – Kempe – Fischer
Ekman-Larsson – Hjalmarsson
Chychrun – Goligoski
Connauton – Lyubuskin
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
The Coyotes are set to move into the Central Division when the new Seattle expansion franchise joins the league, pushing Arizona further away from their ‘local’ rivals.
Houston, a big potential market for the NHL, makes sense as a relocation destination for the franchise, as it will be geographically closer to other teams in the Central.
However, it appears that the current ownership will do its best to ensure the team does not make the move, keeping the Coyotes in the desert for the foreseeable future.
Cohen penned a letter to Coyotes fans, via the team’s official website to reiterate his determination that the franchise will not be relocated and anyone looking to purchase the majority share will need to guarantee the team’s future where it currently is.
Attendances haven’t been great for the organisation, sitting at 13,628 on average per Sportsnet, with performances on the ice not looking much better in recent seasons.
But the constant questions around the team’s future in the desert can’t have helped the former, with people potentially wary of losing the team so not committing to attending as often.
But those fans that do attend, the team is a crucial part of their lives and it would be devastating to lose the team.
Game Day Prediction: The Oilers get goals from their big three and that’s finally enough to kill this losing streak. Oilers take it 4-2.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: Whenever you’re reading this, tickets will still be on sale for this hockey game.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: Since both of these teams are dragging behind the rest of the pack, much of the broadcast is spent talking about 1997’s ‘Faceoff’ starring Nicholas Cage and John Travolta. The panel debates which character is their favourite and whether or we’ve come any closer to perfecting the face swapping technology.
Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 1/02/2019 – 12:00 pm MST