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Photo Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 3.0: American Teams Do Exist (7pm MT, SN1)

After 59 consecutive games against Canadian teams, the Oilers face an American foe from Anaheim tonight. Both rosters are significantly different than the last time these teams met, and many Anaheim players, including coach Dallas Eakins, have never played/coached at Rogers Arena.

The added excitement of this season for players and coaches is facing opponents they know very little about. It makes for more unpredictability, which is great for the NHL.

The Ducks are off to a solid 2-1 start. They’ve had great goaltending, allowing only five goals in three games. Anthony Stolarz will play tonight after John Gibson defeated the Flames last night. Mike Smith starts for the third straight game, which makes sense considering how well he looked in his first two starts.

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Despite not playing the Oilers last season, Eakins is well aware of the Oilers power play.

“I sent a message to our team last night reminding them about our mantra against the Oilers, no penalties, no penalties, no penalties. Their power play is so good,” said Eakins. In 2020 the Oilers led the NHL in PP% at 29.5. They were first again last season at 27.6% and they are 50% through two games this year.

The Ducks power play has been the exact opposite. They had the worst PP% in NHL history last year at 8.9%. They scored 11 power play goals in 56 games. And they allowed five shorthanded goals, so their PP was only +6. Their power play was 23rd in 2018, 24th in 2019, 30th in 2020 and 31st in 2021. It has struggled for years, and this off-season Eakins hired Geoff Ward and Newell Brown as assistant coaches.

“They are in complete control of the power play,” said Eakins. “I told them to not ask me anything about the power play from the past. I didn’t want to influence anything. I didn’t want to say we tried Rakell in that spot and it didn’t work. We needed a fresh look and they have taken control from day one. They are really focused on it. We come in every day and they say ‘we need to work on the power play.'”

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So far it has paid off. The Duck are 4-for-11 (36.3%) in three games. They have two units that split the PP time equally and it has created a healthy competition. While Eakins is preaching discipline for his team, the Oilers need to respect the Ducks’ power play and reduce their PK time as well.

Edmonton had the 10th fewest PK situations last season averaging 2.75 kills/game. This season they’ve killed 4.5 penalties/game, which is sixth most in the NHL. Head coach Dave Tippett was direct in stating his team needs to reduce their penalties. They’ve taken too many penalties in the offensive and neutral zones so far.

LINEUPS…

Oilers

Draisaitl – McDavid – Puljujarvi
Hyman – RNH – Yamamoto
Foegele – Ryan – Kassian
Perlini – Shore – Turris

Nurse – Barrie
Keith – Ceci
Koekkoek – Bouchard

Smith

Shore makes his season debut in place of Ryan McLeod who was reassigned to Bakersfield. This is the forward lineup Tippett wanted to use on opening night, but injuries didn’t allow it. I could see the McDavid line getting seven minutes in the first period as Tippett tries to get an early lead and deflate the Ducks who played last night.

Ducks

Henrique – Zegras – Rakell
Comtois – Getzlaf – Terry
Steel – Lundestrom – Silfverberg
Deslauriers – Groulx – Grant

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Lindholm – Drysdale
Fowler – Manson
Mahura – Shattenkirk

Stolarz

Ardrossan product Sam Steel will play his first game of the season. It isn’t clear who he will draw in for, but Mason MacTavish got banged up last night and sounds like he could be out. Hampus Lindholm will be a game-time decision after blocking a shot late in the game, and Max Jones also left with an injury and his status is unknown.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton improves to 3-0, and for only the second time in franchise history they start a season with three straight wins at home. They defeat the Ducks 5-2.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The word “Swarm” is used over 100 times by Oilers fans on social media tonight.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Perlini-Shore-Turris line produces like it is a preseason game and scores another goal.

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