The Big Swing
Photo credit:Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports
22 days ago
With 41 games to go in their regular season schedule, the fate of the Edmonton Oilers won’t be written in stone during a four-game road trip that begins tonight against the Los Angeles Kings. That said, this swing will have plenty of sway as to whether the Oilers make the playoffs and where they finish.
After a 3-2 OT loss to the Colorado Avalanche Saturday, the Oilers are 21-17-3 for 45 points at the halfway mark of the schedule. The Kings, fresh from a 5-1 win over the Vegas Golden Knights, come into tonight’s game sitting seven points up at 23-14-6. Even with games in hand, if the Oilers don’t win and fall nine points back, I don’t see how they catch the Kings, who took them seven games in the first round of the 2022 post-season.
Win in the City of Angels and the Oilers hit the soft spots in the trip for stops in Anaheim and San Jose before facing the Knights in Las Vegas Saturday. If the Oilers can’t beat the 12-25-4 Ducks and the 12-21-8 Sharks in the middle of the swing, they don’t belong in the Western Conference post-season. Fair?
Rolling into Nevada with three wins would put a seven-game stretch in which the Oilers lurched to a 1-5-1 record at home and coughed up two-goal leads four times in the rear-view mirror. That doesn’t mean deficiencies don’t exist, but the players and coach Jay Woodcroft could hit mid-January with a chance to catch their breath while GM Ken Holland gets busy finding a couple forwards and a D-man. Start with a win tonight.
IT’S A DOGFIGHT
Nov 7, 2022; Washington, District of Columbia, USA; Edmonton Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft (M) talks to his team during a timeout against the Washington Capitals in the third period at Capital One Arena. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
As flawed and inconsistent as the Oilers have been, they’re just two points off their point total after 41 games last season when they went 22-16-3 for 47 points. What they absolutely can’t count on is matching the torrid 27-11-3 (.695) pace they played at in the second half – the Oilers went 26-9-3 in 38 games under Woodcroft after he replaced Dave Tippett.
“We’re in a dogfight right now for points every night,” Woodcroft said. “This team is directly in front of us, so as I said, we’re just taking it one at a time. Certainly, I think we left some points on the table there. That’s been a message to our team when we talk. That first half is done. It’s in the rearview mirror.
“It’s about improving and improving on a daily basis. On a personal level, if you haven’t loved your start to the season, you can build your game out one game at a time, one period at a time, one shift at a time as we move forward down the stretch here.
“We’re not where we want to be, but I believe we’re taking steps. In the end, it’s about playing the right way come Game 83. Now, there’s a lot of things you have to do in order to get to Game 83 and that’s what we’re attending to on a day-by-day basis.”
AROUND THE RINK
In the only previous meeting of the teams this season, the Kings beat the Oilers 3-1 Nov. 16 at Rogers Place on Trevor Moore’s first career hat-trick and 22 saves by Cal Petersen. Moore is on injured reserve and won’t be in the line-up.
Pheonix Copley has supplanted Petersen in the crease alongside Jonathan Quick and will get the start tonight. Stuart Skinner, who kept the Oilers close with 29 saves in the last meeting, gets the net.