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Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 31.0: Tighten Up Defensively (7pm MT, SNW)

I have a strong bias towards offensive hockey. I admit it. I respect solid defence, but I gravitate towards offensive players. However, despite my love of offence, I recognize it is very difficult to win consistently in the NHL if you give up too many goals.

The Oilers offensive production has been incredibly consistent this season. They have scored 30, 30 and 31 goals in their first three 10-game sections of the season. Their PK has remained consistent allowing four, five and four goals, but their even strength defensive play has become an issue.

They allowed 19 EV goals in their first 10 games, then 25 in the next 10 games and in their most recent 10 games they’ve allowed 31 EV goals.

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That is a whopping 63% increase from games #1-10 to #21-30.

I asked head coach Dave Tippett what differences he is seeing in their EV play.

“It isn’t just one thing that has changed,” said Tippett. “We’ve given up some goals that I don’t think our goalies were giving up early (in the season). We’ve been chasing some games and I don’t like the way we play when we are chasing the game. You have to take some chances to get back in the game, but the chances we are taking…they aren’t giving us any advantage and we are giving up goals. We have addressed those things the past couple of days.”

Turnovers and bad decisions with the puck in all three zones have become more prevalent as of late, and that is what Tippett addressed recently. The good news for the Oilers is they proved early this season they are capable of eliminating those errors from their game. Now they have to do it again.

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LINEUP…

Oilers

Neal-McDavid-Archibald
Khaira-Draisaitl-Gagner
Nygard-Sheahan-Chiasson
Granlund-Haas-P. Russell

Nurse-Bear
Klefbom-Persson
K. Russell-Larsson

Koskinen

Koskinen starts his third consecutive game. He is the first Oilers goalie this season to start three in a row. Head coach Dave Tippett said, “We need him to bounce back. I wanted to give him that chance.” Koskinen has been very consistent all season. In his 15 starts, he’s had a Sv% above .900 in 11 games. In the other four he is 1-1-2. I like this move by the coach to go back to him. He’s won games for the Oilers this season and he deserves a chance to bounce back.

Tippett has a great feel for the human side of players, likely because he also played in the NHL. They are proud, and he seems to know when to push the right buttons and when to reward a player. He is very direct and honest with the players and they have responded quite well.

Kings

Iafallo-Kopitar-Brown
Carter-Prokhorkin-Toffoli
Kempe-Lizotte-Wagner
Clifford-Amadio-Lewis

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Ryan-Doughty
Hutton-Roy
MacDermid-Walker

Quick

The Kings are the worst road team in the NHL at 2-10-1 and they’ve been outscored 54-26. They are 28th overall in goals scored with 73, but they have scored 10 goals in two games against the Oilers. They only have 63 goals in their other 27 games (2.33/game). If Edmonton plays smart defensively then they shouldn’t give up many goals against a struggling offence.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Kings have lost nine in a row on the road (0-8-1) and they’ve been outscored 35-12 in those games. They’ve been in games early, but then inconsistency has crept in according to Todd McLellan. It won’t be an easy game, but the Oilers win 4-2.

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OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers score a PP goal. The best PP in the NHL against the 28th ranked Kings PK.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Joakim Nygard scores his second goal of his career and his second against the Kings.

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