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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 69.0: Koskinen Returns (7pm MT, SNW)

There will be no single saviour riding in on a white horse to save the Edmonton Oilers. The closest thing to a franchise-changer arrived in June of 2015, and even Connor McDavid, as great as he is, couldn’t make the Oilers a consistently competitive team. It is a team sport — arguably the ultimate team sport — and you need quality people in various positions, both on and off the ice, for your team to become successful.

There will be a new general manager this summer, and quite possibly a new president of hockey operations. With that will likely come a new coaching staff, some new scouts and a few new players.

But they can’t overhaul every position within the organization, so they will need some people currently employed to be better.

One of those has to Mikko Koskinen.

Koskinen has played quite well since becoming the everyday starter, but he will need to continue that next season.

In ten starts since Cam Talbot was traded, Koskinen is 6-2-2 with a .926sv% and a 2.41 GAA.

Yes, it is a small sample size, but is the only one we have with him being the regular starter. Prior to Talbot’s trade he had never started more than five games in a row. Maybe he plays better getting into a rhythm. Maybe knowing he is the go-to guy now has helped. Maybe it is just a small sample size.

I don’t know the answers, and that’s why I will track how he does the rest of the season. With a three-year contract worth $4.5million/year, he will be their starting goalie next year and he will need to be consistent, not necessarily great, in order for Edmonton to be a playoff contender.

The new GM won’t change this. They don’t have cap space to sign another starting goalie. They will likely bring in a veteran backup, unless they want to re-sign Anthony Stolarz, which they might end up doing because he’d be cheaper than a veteran. It would be risky to have a tandem with less than 100 NHL games between them, but the horrible cap management by Peter Chiarelli and his management group, has left the Oilers in a situation where every dollar will count.

If the new regime believes in Koskinen we might see a lower-priced backup, and if Koskinen can play well his value becomes much more significant for the Oilers who will be in desperate need to have some value contracts.

Koskinen was ill on Saturday against the Maple Leafs, but he will be back in between the pipes tonight. His progress the rest of the season is something I’m watching very closely. It is difficult to be competitive in the NHL without solid goaltending. It isn’t impossible — Martin Jones has 33 wins for the San Jose Sharks despite a .898sv% — but it very unlikely a team will make the playoffs consistently with sub-par goaltending.

I realize another solid ten games won’t guarantee he plays the same next season, but it will at least give us some insight on how he handles playing more games and being the starter.

LINEUP…

Oilers

Draisaitl-McDavid-Kassian
Khaira-RNH-Gagner
Rieder-Cave-Chiasson
Malone-Brodziak-Currie

Klefbom-Larsson
Nurse-Russell
Sekera-Benning

Koskinen

Milan Lucic sits out another game. The responses to my tweet last game outlining his hip injury did make me chuckle. It is good to have a sense of humour during tough times Oilersnation. I applaud you.

Rangers

Namestnikov-Zibanejad-Chytil
Kreider-Strome-Fast
Lemieux-Howden-Buchnevich
Vesey-Andersson-Nieves

Staal-DeAngelo
Skjei-Pionk
Smith-Shattenkirk

Georgiev

The Rangers had an optional skate this morning, so these lines aren’t for sure, although I do know for certain Georgiev is starting in goal. Ryan Strome has 5-3-8 in his last ten games and is leading the Rangers in scoring over that span. He has 12-11-23 in 49 games since being traded for Ryan Spooner. Solid production for a depth forward, something the Oilers could desperately use.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From Blue Line Station:

The New York Rangers are one point ahead of the Oilers in the standings, but are 11 points out of a playoff spot.  The Oilers are only one point worse than New York, but are seven points out of the wild card and harbor faint hopes for the post-season.   The result of tonight’s game will help determine the final lottery standings.

Edmonton is making a late playoff push.  They have gone 6-2-1 in their last nine games with the only losses to the Toronto Maple Leafs.  They really cannot afford to lose any games the rest of this season if they hope for a wild card, but with tough games ahead with Calgary, San Jose and two games with Vegas, it looks pretty doubtful.

Still, any team with Connor McDavid cannot be taken lightly.  He is headed for his third straight 100 point season, but for the first time in three years, he won’t lead the league in scoring with Nikita Kucherov 14 points ahead.   He’s hot with nine assists in his last four games.

The Rangers have made no roster moves as they head west.  We are still waiting for a report on the severity of Libor Hajek‘s shoulder injury.  With seven defensemen on the roster, the team didn’t call anyone up to replace him.   It does mean that Fredrik Claesson should get back into the lineup if the team continues with the seven D, 11 forwards rotation.

According to our friends at OddsShark, the NY Rangers are 11-3 ATS in its last 14 games.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Koskinen picks up another win. Oilers defeat a hard-working Rangers team 4-2.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Rieder doesn’t score. He will score before the season ends, but not tonight.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: A diehard Oilers fans shows up outside the arena at 6:30 looking for tickets. He slow plays the scalper and buys a pair of lower bowl seats for $50 a ticket. This Oilersnation reader then buys some 50/50 tickets believing his good luck will continue. It doesn’t. A guy named Mike will win the 50/50.

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Source: NHL, Official Game Page, 3/11/2019 – 2:00 pm MT