Photo Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Game Notes: Oilers @ Red Wings

Tonight the Oilers make their first stop on a three-game road trip through Detroit, Columbus and Pittsburgh. On paper, this should be the most winnable game on the road trip, but after a tight-checking 2-1 victory over the Red Wings in Edmonton on October 18th, and losses against 25th place Chicago and 26th place Minnesota, there are no easy games in the NHL.

The Oilers will need a much better work ethic tonight than they showed Sunday afternoon against Florida.

1. Detroit began the season 3-1 and produced 14 goals in their first four games. Since then they are 0-7-1. They lost seven in a row in regulation scoring just nine goals against Toronto, in Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton, home to Vancouver, in Ottawa and home to Buffalo. They lost 5-4 in overtime to St.Louis on Sunday. So they have produced only 13 goals in their eight-game winless streak.

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2. They have allowed five goals in a game in six of those eight losses. They are really struggling to defend and combined with their offensive woes they are an opponent the Oilers simply must beat.

3. Andreas Athanasiou is having a rough start. He has 0-1-1 in 132 minutes at 5×5. Last year he produced 21-13-34 at 5×5. His possession numbers weren’t great last season ranging from a 44CF% or being outshot 616-474 (43.4%), but he was only outscored 45-40. He was able to produce solid offensive numbers to counter the goals against, but this season not so much. He has been outscored 10-1 at 5×5, with a 41.1SF% and a CF% of 40.16.

4. Only the top line of Dylan Larkin, Tyler Bertuzzi and Anthony Mantha play more minutes than him (16:45/game), and right now he is getting crushed. I’m very curious to see what matchups Jeff Blashill will run tonight. Eleven days ago in Edmonton Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl faced the top two lines of Bertuzzi-Larkin-Mantha and Athanasiou-Glendening-Nielson six minutes each and then the Darren Helm line for four minutes. But Valtteri Filppula didn’t dress that game and he usually plays with Anthanasious and Glendening. And last game Mantha didn’t play with Larkin as Blashill tried to spread out his offence and shore up his defence.

5. Helm, and Jacob de la Rose have been the Wings best forwards during their eight-game skid. Helm has scored 3-1-4 in this past eight games and despite the Wings getting outscored 34-13 he is +4. Justin Abdelkader was on that line until he was injured last Wednesday and was placed on IR this morning. The top two lines have been leaking goals against with Athanasiou at -11, Mantha -7, Bertuzzi and Glendening -6, Larkin and Filppula are -5. McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins lines should be able to create a lot of chances tonight.

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6. The Wings have allowed the second most goals in the NHL, 45, and they are tied for 28th in GAA at 3.75. If there was ever a game where someone in the Oilers bottom six could score, tonight presents their best opportunity. Jonathan Bernier and Jimmy Howard have each started six games. Howard is 1-5, while Bernier is 2-3-1, but their SV% and GAA are very close. Bernier has an .885sv% and 3.51 GAA, while Howard sits at .901sv% and a 3.59 GAA.

7. If I’m Dave Tippett I start Mikko Koskinen. He has the better numbers this season and tonight presents the best opportunity to win. The Oilers need to pick up at least one win tonight or tomorrow in Columbus, and I’d go with my best goalie tonight. Take the two points, and then go to Columbus and play Mike Smith. Koskinen has yet to lose a start. He defeated Detroit on the 18th and he is 5-0 this season with all five wins coming against the East. From my seat he deserves the start tonight.

8. It is still early, but prior to the season many pundits felt the Pacific Division was the weakest in the NHL. Six of the top-16 teams are in the Pacific Division and four of the top-12 with Edmonton, Vancouver, Arizona and Vegas. The Coyotes are second in GAA, the Canucks are third and Edmonton is ninth.

9. The five best penalty kills in the NHL are all Pacific Division teams: San Jose (93.1%), Vegas (89.6%), Calgary (88%), Vancouver (86.8%) and Edmonton (86.5%). So far the Pacific has been winning with better team defence. Vancouver (fifth) is the only Pacific team in the top-15 in goals/game.

10. Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman acquired winger Brandon Perlini from the Chicago Blackhawks yesterday for 19-year-old defenceman Alec Regula. Regula is an offensive-minded defenceman. Regula was drafted in the third round in 2018, and that year the Oilers selected Evan Bouchard, Ryan McLeod and Olivier Rodrigue in the first two rounds and then D-man Mike Kesselring in the sixth and Patrik Siikanen in the seventh. Kesselring is in his first season at Northeastern University and has no points in six games. If you are looking for the closest equivalent to Regula in the Oilers system it likely would be Dmitri Samorukov. I’d rank Samorukov higher, and that’s why Holland wasn’t involved in the deal.

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11. Perlini has potential, but the knock against him is he isn’t involved in the game often enough. This is his third organization and he is only 23 so maybe being healthy scratched as often as he was in Chicago is the wake-up call he needs. He wouldn’t be the first player who was traded to numerous teams before figuring out how to use his abilities on a more consistent basis. He will not play tonight according to head coach Jeff Blashill.

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