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Photo Credit: © Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

GDB 35.0: We Are Back (8pm MT, CBC)

For the first time in 10 days, we’re finally back to talk about an Edmonton Oilers game day as the boys get set to square off against the Ottawa Senators as the late game on Hockey Night in Canada.

Isn’t it weird to think about how this is only the 35th game for the Oilers despite the fact that it feels like this season has been going on for 12 years at this point? Maybe it’s the COVID delays and the back-to-back losing streaks that are making time pass at a glacial pace, but the fact that we’re not even halfway through the 2021-22 campaign midway through January feels weird to me. The good news is that we’ve finally got a game to watch after nearly two weeks have passed since the 4-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The other good news is that the time off afforded some of the Oilers the chance to either a) get out of COVID protocol or b) get a little bit healthier than they otherwise would have been had they been playing. Take Zach Hyman, for example, as he mentioned that this recent break allowed his shoulder to heal up a little bit better after getting banged up against the Hurricanes back in mid-December, and if we’re looking for positive takeaways from these postponements then having players get healthy certainly has to be one of them. Will the time to recover, practice, and reset mean anything in terms of results on the ice? We shall see.

As much as we all want to believe that the Oilers will never lose to the Senators again — it was a great time watching the boys run Ottawa’s show during the weird 2021 all-Canadian season — the reality is that this is a team that’s been playing some solid hockey lately and that will be a sizeable hurdle they’ll need to clear. Since December 2nd, the Senators posted a 6-3-1 record over their last 10 games with wins coming over the likes of Carolina, Colorado, Tampa Bay, Florida, and Calgary. For a team that wasn’t expected to do a whole lot again this year, the Sens are finding ways to beat some very good teams and the Oilers will need to be at their best if they’re going to get the job done and snap this losing streak. From the net outward, the Oilers will need a complete effort in all three zones for all 60 minutes, which has undoubtedly been a challenge for them lately. The first step will be to get a better start than what’s been plaguing this team over the last month or so, and specifically, the Oilers need to find a way to set the tone without falling behind again. Not only do they need to find a way to score the first goal, but they also need to make sure that they’re keeping things tight in their own zone at the same time. I know that seems like simple stuff to say here, but when you’re riding a five-game losing streak, it wouldn’t be the worst thing to get back to basics either.

Let’s see what the numbers say.

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THE NUMBERS

OILERS SENATORS
RECORD 18-14-2 10-18-2
WIN/LOSS STREAK L5 W1
LAST 10 GAMES 2-6-2 6-3-1
GOALS FOR 113 83
GOALS AGAINST 111 108
POWER PLAY% 30.2 18.6
PENALTY KILL% 80.6 78.4
AVG. SHOTS/FOR 32.5 28.7
AVG. SHOTS/AGAINST 32.9 33.7
TEAM SAVE% .908 .911
CORSI FOR% 51.31 44.90
PDO 0.988 0.997
TEAM SHOOTING% 7.96 8.52
EXPECTED GOALS FOR% 50.65 45.79

Numbers courtesy of Natural Stat Trick (fancies at 5×5)

LINEUPS…

Oilers ***UPDATED***

Draisaitl – McDavid – Kassian
Hyman – McLeod – Puljujarvi
Foegele – Ryan – Yamamoto
Perlini – Shore – Sceviour

Nurse – Ceci
Keith – Barrie
Lagesson – Bouchard

Skinner

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Yesterday after practice, Jason Gregor tweeted that Edmonton will need one of Benson or Foegele to “test out of COVID” to have 18 skaters available for tonight’s game, and the good news is that all three of them were cleared this morning. As a result, the line combos posted above are just a guess based on that skate and who is now available. Again, don’t put too much stock into what I’ve got there as a placeholder, but I will be sure to jump in and edit the lines as news becomes available.

Senators

Tkachuk – Norris – Batherson
Formenton – Paul – C. Brown
Sanford – Gambrell – Watson
Ennis – Tierney – Sabourin

Chabot – Bernard-Docker
Holden – Zub
Brannstrom – J.Brown

Murray

Despite being short a few key pieces due to COVID, the Senators are going to be a handful for the Oilers to handle. They’re a team that works incredibly hard and even though they may not have the high-end firepower that we’ve got on our side, they do have some guys that will tag you when you make mistakes. I don’t know how many of you would have predicted Drake Batherson to be pumping in offence at over a point-per-game clip, but it’s an example of a player that can make something happen with your mistakes and that tells me the Oilers would be best off not making any.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

From SensChip.ca

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After the way they played following the last long layoff, it was hard to know what to expect from the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night. Teams can talk all they want about “no excuses” but the reality is, this is a brutal situation the team has been going through recently and it would have been entirely acceptable if they came out a little flat. Yea, about that. The Senators were the better team from the moment the puck dropped last night and they really didn’t let up at any point. Even when the Flames scored early in the third and threatened to crawl back into the game, the Senators refused to let up. And then kept their foot on the pedal the rest of the way. Just a damn good team effort and in a tough spot. Let’s do this again, shall we?

On a team that is loaded with young talent, there was a time not long ago when Drake Batherson got lost in the shuffle a little bit. Not because of anything he did necessarily but mostly because his path to becoming an everyday NHL hockey player hasn’t exactly been straightforward. But now, it’s pretty clear that he is quickly making the transition from everyday player to star in the making. He has been Ottawa’s best player over the course of this season and on Thursday, he was recognized for it with a first All-Star Game invite. And then against the Flames, he showed exactly why he’s more than worthy of that honour.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

Game Day Prediction: The losing streak ends with a big 4-2 win.

Obvious Game Day Prediction: The Oilers’ win is powered by their power play success.

Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: THE OILERS SCORE THE FIRST GOAL! Trust me.

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