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48 to go: Bring it on

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Photo credit:© Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Robin Brownlee
5 months ago
Remember when it looked like Ryan McLeod might never score another goal, and the Edmonton Oilers were staggering along with a 2-9-1 record and seemed destined to miss the playoffs? Sure, you do. To borrow from Gene Principe, with both Ryan and the Oilers rolling now, that seems like a year ago. OK, I’ll show myself out.
Here we are just two days into 2024 as the Philadelphia Flyers come calling at Rogers Place tonight and Ryan and the Oilers have completely flipped the script on this season. After going the first 21 games of this campaign without a goal, Ryan has seven, including five in his last six games as part of a smoking hot trio with Warren Foegele and Leon Draisaitl.
The Oilers, meanwhile, get ready for the opening face-off tonight after putting together a 13-3-0 stretch in their last 16 games as part of a 15-6-0 record under Kris Knoblauch. For all the angst and consternation from the fanbase during the dozen games they spent floundering, the up-and-down Oilers are right where they’ve been the previous two seasons as they face Philly.
The Oilers have an eight-game win streak in the books and are working on a five-game heater with Philly in town. They also have a pair of four-game losing streaks and a couple three-game skids in their body or work. At 18-15-1 for 37 points, the Oilers are just one point back of the pace they set in the previous two seasons – they were 18-14-2 for 38 points in both of those.

WHAT THEY SAY

Dec 31, 2023; Anaheim, California, USA; Edmonton Oilers left wing Warren Foegele (37) celebrates his second goal of the game scored against the Anaheim Ducks during the second period at Honda Center.
As for the McLeod-Draisaitl-Foegele line, the threesome combined for 10 points in that 7-2 waxing of the Anaheim Ducks to complete the California swing. Foegele put up a career-high five points with 2-3-5, while McLeod had 1-1-2 and Draisaitl 1-2-3.
“I think it’s really important how hard Foegele and McLeod work getting in on the forecheck, creating turnovers and not giving up the puck,” Knoblauch said. “They’re able to create the turnovers and then, they can make plays. I think Leon’s starting to feel very confident. The three of them are really building some chemistry.”
“Right now, we’re playing really good hockey – all three of is together,” Draisaitl said. “We’re obviously looking to continue that and create more chemistry and create more confidence in each other. Hopefully, we can do that.”
No question it’s been a roller-coaster ride – one that cost coach Jay Woodcroft and assistant Dave Manson their jobs. Anybody telling you what we’ve seen was the plan all along is talking through their backside. Yet here we are with the Oilers pushing for a wildcard spot in the Western Conference with 48 games to go. 

THE BOTTOM LINE

At the bottom line, for all the ups and downs and swings in performance to go with reasonable questions about this line-up from the goal crease out, the Oilers are in the hunt. That didn’t seem likely, or even possible after that first Dirty Dozen, to hear some tell it, before Jay Woodcroft got the sack.
The Flyers, 19-12-5 as they wrap up a four-game road swing, handled the Oilers 4-1 in Philly back on Oct. 19. That game was the first of three consecutive losses for Jack Campbell – he gave up four goals on 32 shots — before his demotion to the AHL.

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