Photo Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

GDB Game Notes: Edmonton Oilers @ Vegas Golden Knights

After a disappointing 5-1 loss at the hands of the basement-dwelling Los Angeles Kings, the Edmonton Oilers will look to rebound tonight with a date in Vegas against the Golden Knights.

1. There’s no doubt that losing Thursday night’s game to a terrible team like the Kings was frustrating. The Oilers are in a competitive division and you don’t want to be throwing away games you should win against lesser opponents. That said, one thing the Oilers have done incredibly well this year is rebound after bad showings. After losing to the Blackhawks, the Oilers responded with a 6-3 win over the Flyers. After losing to the Wild, the Oilers responded with a 4-3 win against the Capitals. After losing 3-1 to the Red Wings, the Oilers responded with a 4-1 win over the Blue Jackets. After a 6-3 loss to the Sharks, the Oilers responded with a 6-2 win over the Avalanche. Let’s hope this trend continues tonight.

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2. Only twice this season have the Oilers dropped back-to-back games. This is certainly the result of the aforementioned post in which the team frequently does a good job rebounding after losses. The only losing streaks the Oilers have had this season came when they lost back-to-back games on the road to Winnipeg and Minnesota and when they lost to Florida at home and then Detroit on the road. Given the fact they’ve played 24 games, not having a single skid of at least three losses in a row is impressive.

3. Games against the Golden Knights are four-point games, even though it’s only November. Vegas is 11-9-4 but they were widely considered contenders to win the Pacific Division this season. Come spring, they’ll more than likely be one of the teams the Oilers will be competing with for a playoff spot. I figure only Los Angeles isn’t a playoff possibility in the Pacific. Anybody else can get in there. That’s what makes games like this right now so important.

4. Vegas’ start has been fairly underwhelming thus far. They’re right in the middle of the pack for both goals for and goals against. Given their decent-but-not-great blueline, you expect Vegas to be a middling team at keeping the puck out of the net, but their offence should be more potent than it has been. On paper, the Golden Knights have one of the best forward groups in the league, but, as of right now, they aren’t even in the top third in the league in goals for.

5. A strange lineup decision by Gerard Gallant has been to use Paul Stastny as the team’s third-line centre while bumping up Cody Eakin to the second line with Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone. The goal here is to spread the offence around, giving Alex Tuch and Cody Glass a more offensive pivot on the third line, but Eakin provides almost no offence. He has just six points in 20 games and might neutralize Stone and Pacioretty, who are key to Vegas’ offence.

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6. Speaking of lineups, the Oilers will see a slight change tonight as the search for the missing piece on the second line continues. This time, it’ll be the speedy Joakim Nygard getting a chance alongside Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and James Neal. Nygard has just one goal in 10 games playing mostly in the bottom-six, but his speed could be a nice fit in the top-six. It’s worth a try. Nobody else has been able to get it done so far.

7. Here is the Oilers goal scoring (points in parenthesis) compared to Vegas and the Oilers last year through 24 games via Gregor.

2018/19 49 (103) 9 (30) 7 (39)
EDMONTON 58 (135) 11 (26) 7 (47)
LAS VEGAS 42 (92) 22 (53) 7 (34)
8. Gregor added that Edmonton is 14-7-3 and has outscored teams 76-67, while Vegas is 11-9-4 with a 71-69 GF-GA ratio. Edmonton (10-1-1) and Vegas (9-3-1) have the most wins among Pacific Division teams when scoring first, while the Oilers (4-6-2) have had more success when allowing the first goal compared to Vegas (2-6-3). After a sluggish start in Los Angeles, the Oilers need to be much better in the first frame tonight.

9. Another big issue for the Golden Knights is backup goaltending. It won’t be an issue tonight as Marc-Andrew Fleury is starting in net, but if he were to get injured, you could pretty much stick a fork in this team. Fleury has all 11 of Vegas’ wins. He owns a .922 save percentage while the other three goalies they’ve used so far, Malcolm Subban, Garret Sparks, and Oscar Dansk, have a save percentage of .875.

10. This will be Edmonton and Vegas’ first meeting of the season as we’ve seen a lot of out-of-division games to start the season. The NHL’s goal in scheduling like this is to create drama at the end of the season with a bunch of intra-division games during the stretch run. Edmonton will see Vegas twice and February and once in March. I have a feeling those three meetings will have major playoff implications.

11. As I noted in the game day post against Los Angeles, success against the division is crucial. The Oilers have done well against the Pacific thus far, posting a 4-2-1 record against their division rivals. The Golden Knights have had a similar level of success, posting a 5-2-1 record so far.