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GDB 33.0: Winds of Change (7pm MT, SNW)

By definition a hurricane is a tropical cyclone with winds of 74 miles (119 KM) per hour or greater, and it is usually accompanied with rain, thunder and lightning. They can be devastating. The Carolina Hurricanes don’t possess the same level of threat, but as they arrive in Edmonton the winds of change are blowing through the Oilers lineup.

Despite sitting in first place in the Pacific Division, head coach Dave Tippett is not satisfied or comfortable with how his team has played of late. They haven’t been awful, but they’ve haven’t been as consistent as he’d like, especially at 5×5.

The Oilers are 5-4-1 in the last ten games, which is very similar to the rest of the Pacific Division in that time. They haven’t lost any ground in the standings, but they haven’t created any separation.

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Their special teams have been great. The PP is 9 of 27 (33%) and the PK has killed off 23 of 27 (85.2%), but they have given up way too much at even strength.

They’ve been outscored 28-16 and only one of those games at 3×3. The Oilers defensive coverage 5×5 has been lacking and Tippett, and the players, want to stop that trend. The only players with a + rating over the past 10 games are Darnell Nurse (+3) and Ethan Bear (+1). Gaetan Haas, Markus Granlund and Sam Gagner are even, while the rest of the players are between -1 and -12.

The Oilers defensive play earlier this season was very strong, but we’ve seen some cracks at 5×5 lately. And it isn’t just one thing that has caused the GA to increase. Missed reads, losing battles, timely turnovers and ill-advised decisions in all three zones have led to goals.

Injuries to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zack Kassian led to some line juggling the past few weeks, but they returned to the lineup on Sunday. Tippett wasn’t enamoured with how his top two lines played so he switched them up for tonight.

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It is interesting how when a coach changes lines on a winning team, it doesn’t create the same backlash as when a coach does it while the team is losing. If they are losing and he switches some accuse the coach of starting the blender too quickly, but with the Oilers winning no pundits or fans are critiquing Tippett’s decision to switch it up. Winning cures a lot of things, and Tippett has shown a strong ability to read his team this year.

Early on when they were winning, but most of the depth guys weren’t scoring, he kept supporting them. He applauded their defensive play and PK skills, and was hopeful the offence would come. It has started to come more from the bottom of the lineup, but as the entire team has struggled 5×5 Tippett is going on the offensive and not waiting for them to play their way out of it. He’s been aggressive all season and he isn’t afraid to challenge his team, in a positive fashion, on the areas they need to improve.

We’ll see how they respond tonight.

LINEUP

Oilers

Nygard-McDavid-Kassian
Khaira-RNH-Draisaitl
Neal-Haas-P.Russell
Granlund-Sheahan-Archibald

Nurse-Bear
Klefbom-Larsson
K.Russell-Jones

Koskinen

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The Oilers had an optional skate this morning, but those were the lines yesterday and I expect those to be the lines tonight. Joakim Nygard gets his first chance to play with McDavid. “I have to have a bit more of a shooter mentality and always be ready,” said Nygard. “Connor makes so much happen so I just need to use my speed and get him the puck.”

Caleb Jones was recalled yesterday and will play his 10th game of the season. He feels more comfortable coming up this time after spending some time getting to know the new coaching staff and how they want him to play.

“I think being comfortable with the coaching staff helps a lot,” said Jones. “I know what they expect. They have had a big emphasis on using the middle of the ice more and that is something I will try to put in my game tonight. They told me they just want a really good, solid defenceman and that’s what I’ve been trying to focus on. Just be really good in my own zone.”

Jones was also asked about the urgency to get his foot in the door with so many young D-men in the Oilers system. “You can’t get lost in the shuffle,” he said. “You have to make sure you are always pushing. There’s a lot of good young ones coming up too, and I think that makes it good for an organization when you have internal competition for spots. You have to stay on top of your game.”

From our friends at OddsShark, the total has gone UNDER in 4 of Edmonton’s last 6 games.

Hurricanes

Svechnikov-Staal-Foegele
Niederreiter-Aho-Teravainen
McGinn-Wallmark-Necas
Dzingel-Martinook-Gauthier

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Slavin-Hamilton
Edmundson-Pesce
Gardiner-Van Riemsdyk

Riemer

Aho registered the first five-point game of his career against the Wild on Saturday. He’d been off to a slower start, by his standards, prior to that game and we’ll see how much of a boost he’ll get from that game.

I’m going to watch if Tippett tries hard to get either of his top two lines out against the Gardiner-Van Reimsdyk pairing. Jake Gardiner and Van Riemsdyk have a GF% of 28.5% and 37.5% respectively. Gardiner has been outscored 20-8 at 5×5.

If you dig into his numbers you can’t say it is due to playing with bottom forwards. His most common forward teammates are Dzingel, Aho, Necas, Niederreiter, Wallmark and Teravainen. When he and Aho are on the ice together they are 2-9 in GF-GA. But Aho is 25-13 when not on the ice with Hamilton. I’d have to go watch all the goals against, but those numbers stand out.

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If I’m the Oilers I’m attacking Gardiner down low as often as I can.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The win streak against the Metro continues as Oilers improve to 9-0 with a 4-3 win.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: You will miss Gene Principe hosting the broadcast. He is mourning the death of his wonderful mother and Oilersnation misses his positive and charming personality.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid and Draisaitl each score a goal with the other player not on the ice.

GDB BROUGHT TO YOU BY COLLIN BRUCE MORTGAGE TEAM

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MONTH OF GIVING…

Huge shout out to Curtis and his amazing bid of $12,250 on the Farmer’s Business Network package yesterday. Awesome.

Day 7 Package #1: REALTOR FEES from Michelle Derk

  • Up for grabs is the seller’s commission for your house. (In a regular sale half the commission goes to the seller realtor and half to the buyer. So this is $3,500 on the first $100,000 and 1.5% on the remaining.)

On a $500,000 house that is a value of $9,500.00. On a $600,000 house that is a value of $11,000.00. and so on.

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Package #2: Beliveau Jersey and Oilers/Habs Loge Seats

  • A Vintage signed Jean Beliveau jersey courtesy of Jeff Woods.
  • A pair of Loge Ledge seats and a $100 Food and Beverage tab for the Oilers/Habs game on Saturday, December 21st courtesy of Marc Cardinal.

You can bid by listening to TSN 1260 and calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260 between 2-6 p.m. today. All proceeds will help Santas Anonymous.

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