Welcome, welcome, welcome to yet another Hockey Night in Canada edition of the GDB as we get ourselves set for the Edmonton Oilers to take on the Arizona Coyotes. Will the Oilers be able to turn Thursday’s win into another? We’re only a few short hours from finding out.
With six games remaining (including this one) before the All-Star break, the Oilers will head into the break with a run of home games (one away) against some beatable teams that they need to take advantage of and the Coyotes would certainly qualify. Not only is Arizona one of the few divisional opponents that the Oilers are ahead of in the standings, but they’ve also run into a string of injuries to some key pieces both up front and on the back end. Considering the Coyotes will be without their starting goalie, best defenceman, and leading scorer, anything other than an outright win for the Oilers would be deeply disappointing. This can’t be another one of those nights where they rely on a McMiracle to get the two points. They need a statement game. The good news is that the boys have had a nice run of late against Arizona and I’m hoping they can carry some of that confidence forward.
As of this morning, Edmonton sits only two points back of the final wildcard spot with Minnesota having an extra game in hand so it would be mighty fine to see the boys even things up against Arizona (provided the Wild lose against Detroit). Even with plenty of runway left in the season, the Oilers have to start playing with more urgency and looking at games against teams like the Coyotes, a club they’ve beaten in seven of their last 10 meetings dating back to 2016-17, as must-wins. With the first half of the NHL season now in the books, we’re starting to see more separation in the standings as the bad teams fall off of a cliff and the contenders continue pulling away from the pack. If the Oilers are going to have any chance of sticking with that playoff group then they’re going to have to put some wins together, getting away from the win one/lose one streak we’ve seen since the calendar flipped over.
Tonight’s game marks the second of four meetings between these two teams, with the Oilers taking the first round by a 3-1 score only 10 short days ago. Will we get the same result tonight? Gord knows we need it.
|LAST 10 GAMES||3-7-0||5-4-1|
|EXPECTED GOALS FOR%||47.35||47.64|
Numbers courtesy of Corsica (fancies at 5×5)
RNH – McDavid – Rattie
Lucic – Draisaitl – Chiasson
Spooner – Khaira – Puljujarvi
Rieder – Brodziak – Kassian
Nurse – Russell
Jones – Larsson
Gravel – Benning
Look back at the struggles of the last few weeks, the Oilers have been outshot in 13 of their last 14 games and that’s a trend that desperately needs to change. I don’t think I have to explain that getting dummied on the shot clock is not part of the recipe for success, and the Oilers need to find a way to stop the bleeding in their own zone. Yes, Oscar Klefbom is out and that’s a major loss, but the other guys on this team need to figure out how to stop spending so much time in their own zone.
As for the line combinations, it was interesting to see that Hitchcock pulled the blender out a little bit after Thursday’s win. He put McNuge back together, Draisaitl on the second line, and bumped Kassian back to the fourth line. After practice on Friday morning, Hitchcock said that Brandon Manning will draw back into the lineup at some point soon and that Kailer Yamamoto was close to returning from injury but it looks like neither guy will be playing tonight.
Keller – Stepan – Fischer
Panik – Weal – Hinostroza
Galchenyuk – Cousins – Garland
Crouse – Dauphin – Archibald
Ekman-Larsson – Hjalmarsson
Chychrun – Lyubuskin
Oesterle – Goligoski
Coming into this game, the Coyotes will be without Antti Raanta, Jason Demers, Nick Schmaltz, Brad Richardson, Michael Grabner, and Christian Dvorak which is, obviously, a massive opportunity for the Oilers. They need to find a way to make it count.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…
As well as the team’s noted difficulties with injury, the Coyotes also lose the current leading goalscorer on the team – with Richardson currently sitting at 11 goals in 40 regular season appearances this season.
The 33-year-old veteran forward was having one of his stronger seasons since arriving in the desert, already surpassing last season’s points total of 15 – earning a further five assists to his 11 goals to date.
Typically finding himself starting in the defensive zone, something he does 67.9% of the time, Richardson has found a way to produce offensively despite being placed in a less-than-ideal situation.
He is regularly used on the penalty kill and already has three short-handed goals this season, has almost an even Corsi rating (49.4%) and has been the team’s best player in the face-off circle – where he has won 54.7% of the time he has lined up against opponents.
Game Day Prediction: While the Coyotes do a good job of completely shutting down the bottom-six, they’re unable to contain Connor McDavid. The captain scores a pair and leads the Oilers to a second straight 3-1 victory over the Coyotes.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: Connor McDavid will extend his point streaks to four games and we will all be grateful that he did.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: I was talking to the boys at Nation HQ yesterday about today’s game, and Chris the Intern came up with a NSOGDP that I just had to include. According to Chris, tonight’s game will be tied at 1-1 at the end of regulation and it will take the Oilers not one but TWO goals in OT to close it out. Chris says that the first goal will be in and out of the net so quickly that no one on the ice will be able to confirm whether or not the puck crossed the line, but that the Oilers will score a second time on the same shift to end all doubts. If Chris nails this, I owe him lunch or something because this has to be one of the most specific NSOGDPs that I can remember.
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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 1/11/2019 – 12:00 pm MST