Do it Again?
Photo credit:Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports
10 months ago
With a three-game winning streak on the go, 45 games in the books and the Seattle Kraken in town Tuesday, the Edmonton Oilers find themselves exactly where they were one year ago in terms of their record and points total – they’re 24-18-3 for 51 points.
The question now, with the return of Evander Kane from wrist surgery pending: Do the Oilers have a second half in them like they produced last season when Jay Woodcroft took over for Dave Tippett after 44 games and led them to the Western Conference final?
Is this team, for all the inconsistencies, with veterans like Duncan Keith and Mike Smith no longer in the mix and with no new-coach bump forthcoming this time around, finally finding its game? It looked like it in a 4-3 win over the Vegas Golden Knights Saturday to wind up a four-game road swing at 3-1-0.
That win in Vegas was as solid and complete a game as the Oilers have played this season. With Stuart Skinner away to attend to the birth of his first child, Jack Campbell was very good again — yes, again — in goal to wrap up the swing. Now, Kane is on his way back. A tweak here and there by GM Ken Holland and fans around here might have something to holler about again.
THIS TIME AROUND
Nov 1, 2022; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Evander Kane (91) celebrates after scoring a goal during the first period against the Nashville Predators at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Holland will have to perform some roster gymnastics to fit Kane into his lineup under the salary cap and he still might need to find another forward and a bonafide defenceman. How long will it take Kane to get back to speed? We’ll need to see more from Campbell before we talk about him finally turning the corner. The road trip was a start, but nothing more, right?
“I feel good right now,” Kane said after skating with the team again this morning. “Been itching to get back three-and-a-half weeks ago. Hopefully, we get some good news soon here.
“It’s nice to have been around the guys, to have kept a little bit of routine since I’ve been off. I know sometimes when you have longer injuries and you’re not around the group and not in that game-like routine, it can get a little nauseating, so it was nice to be on the road and hang around the guys. Obviously, it was a great road trip.”
Fans know what they’re going to get from Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. We know what to expect from Kane when he’s on his game. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is having a career year and Zach Hyman is on pace to surpass his career-best totals of last season. What about Klim Kostin? He’s a keeper. So, there’s lots of boxes checked. The questions for me remain on the blue line and in goal.
It was just two weeks ago, after a 5-2 loss to the Kraken, when I wrote it felt like the Oilers were headed the wrong direction. This, after several weeks of writing they just needed to string together a few wins to swing their season. With the Kraken in front of them again Tuesday, will those wins on the road do the trick?
THE BOTTOM LINE
“Obviously we didn’t have the game we really wanted in L.A., but you see three guys get into scraps,” Kane said of a 6-3 loss against the Kings to open the trip. “Then, obviously, we beat two teams we know we should beat (Anaheim and San Jose), but we played the right way during those games.
“We carried over to a real tough arena and team in Vegas. It’s good to see. I think we had some maturity to our game in terms of that third period, the way we managed the puck and how we continued to push. We’ve just got to carry that on tomorrow against Seattle.”
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