Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Start me up
2 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers didn’t give themselves much chance for success when they faced the Carolina Hurricanes on Nov. 22, falling behind 4-0 in the first 15 minutes on the way to a 6-3 defeat – the tail-end of a three-game losing streak.
With four straight wins to end that skid and five straight off-days going into a string of six consecutive games at home, the Oilers don’t have any excuses for not being ready to go when the Canes come calling at Rogers Place in a rematch tonight.
The Oilers are rested. Their overall defensive play and special teams were better before the break. On the flip side, at 9-12-1 after the four straight wins, they still have a lot of work to do to climb into the playoff picture, so they should be motivated. And in recent seasons, Carolina has beaten them for fun – 7-1-1 in the last nine meetings, so there’s that.
With an opportunity to completely swing their season in the next half-dozen games, the Oilers look like a better team than the one that wasn’t ready to go at puck drop two weeks ago. We’ll find out about that soon enough.
WHAT THEY SAY
Nov 13, 2023; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers Head Coach Kris Knoblauch looks on against the New York Islanders at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
“I think we’ve tightened things up defensively, especially off the rush,” coach Kris Knoblauch said when asked what’s changed since the Oilers last saw Carolina. “I think the special teams have been really good. Since we played Carolina, I think the penalty kill was good, but the power play had been struggling and not clicking, but right now I feel that’s been going the way it should be.”
After getting spanked in Raleigh, the Oilers have beaten Washington 5-0, Anaheim 8-2, Vegas 5-4 in a shootout and Winnipeg 3-1. The power play has clicked along at 46.7 per cent clip during that stretch and the penalty killing hasn’t given up much at 93.8 per cent.
Behind all that — and 14 points from Connor McDavid — Stuart Skinner has a .931 save percentage in those four games. Even with days off between each of these next six games, Captain Obvious tells us the Oilers can’t ride Skinner, who is 8-7-1 with a 3.16 GAA and .881 overall in 17 games, indefinitely, but first things first. Win this game.
“Huge credit to the guys in front of me,” Skinner said after the team resumed skating. “I’ve said this probably 100 times, but the PK has just been really good, which is a huge help for just being able to win games in general. So, that’s huge props to the forwards and the (defence) really being committed on our PK, on our power play and just the game overall, so it’s been very good.”
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