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GDB 24.0: A Rare Matchup (7pm MT, SNW)

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Photo credit:© Matt Blewett-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
6 months ago
The Edmonton Oilers have one game this month against a team in the Western Conference wildcard race, and it is tonight against the Minnesota Wild. Some games have more at stake than others, and tonight is one of them.
Be sure to check out the latest NHL odds with online sportsbook Betway.
The remainder of their games this month are against Eastern conference teams (six), three teams not in the race (Chicago, Anaheim and San Jose) and a potential playoff matchup v. the Los Angeles Kings. The Kings game will be a great post-Christmas test, but tonight’s matchup gives the Oilers the only head-to-head chance to gain ground on a team in the wildcard hunt.
An Oilers regulation victory will hurdle them ahead of Seattle and Minnesota and they’d find themselves two points back of Calgary with two games in hand. The Oilers’ recent hot streak has them in a position to be back to .500 by the end of the weekend. The players have talked about that being their first goal. Get back to .500 and then start working their way higher up the standings. A victory tonight and Sunday would give them 25 points in 25 games. They had 28 points in 25 games last season — albeit they won 14 of their final 15 games, which was a huge factor in finishing with 109 points.
Edmonton has played exceptionally well over this five-game winning streak. They’ve controlled most of the games. They led for 59:32 v. Carolina. They were ahead for 47:23 against Anaheim. They had a lead for 45:50 v. Washington and never trailed. They led a total of 38:23 v. Vegas, and never trailed. Winnipeg was the only game they trailed after the Jets made it 1-0 late in the first period until Darnell Nurse tied with 6:49 remaining and then Leon Draisaitl scored the game winner with 2:13 remaining.
During their winning streak they’ve had the lead for 193:20. They’ve trailed for a total of 39:09 and 34:44 of that came against Winnipeg. The game is much easier when you aren’t trailing. Edmonton has started quite well much of the season.
They’ve scored first in 14 of their 23 games. They’ve trailed after 20 minutes only seven times. Early on they struggled in the second and third periods, but as they’ve found consistency in their game it has carried over all three periods. Since Kris Knoblauch and Paul Coffey arrived the Oilers have outscored teams 17-11 in the first and 13-9 in both the second and third periods. In their five-game winning streak they’ve dominated all three periods outscoring the opposition 11-3 in the first, 9-2 in the second and 6-3 in the third.
They will need that strong play to continue, because Minnesota has dominated the Oilers recently. Since the start of the 2021-22 season the Oilers are an ugly 1-6 v. the Wild and they’ve been outscored 32-18. Minnesota thumped them 7-4 in Minny in October. The Oilers led 3-2 after 40 minutes before allowing five goals in the final frame. The Oilers couldn’t defend consistently early in the season, and that third period was a prime example. But Edmonton is playing like a much different team now.
They are much more connected. The gaps between their defenceman and forwards are much smaller. They’ve reduced scoring chances off the rush significantly. Last season the Oilers played the Wild three times in 11 days in early December and lost two of three. They’ve often faced the Wild when they weren’t playing well, and the Wild took advantage of it and added to their misery. The Wild played patient and capitalized on the Oilers’ errors. Edmonton is playing its best hockey of the season now, and needs to force the Wild to chase them tonight.
Minnesota is playing their third game in four nights and second of a back-to-back after losing 2-0 in Vancouver last night. The Wild won’t play run-and-gun with the Oilers per se, but they are very good at creating high-danger chances.
The Wild are fifth in high-danger chances created, but they are 15th in goals scored. They aren’t an elite offensive team, while Edmonton is. And despite some horrific early season play, the Oilers’ team defence is top-ten in seven defensive categories. They’ve only allowed eight goals in their past five games. Stuart Skinner is playing very well and looks poised and patient in goal. It also helps he isn’t seeing a steady stream of odd-man rushes or high-danger chances.
The Wild’s recent 4-1 streak under John Hynes has come from stingy defence. They’ve allowed seven goals, while scoring 18. They don’t have the offensive punch to match the Oilers, and if Edmonton can get an early lead, it will force the Wild to take a few more chances and open up defensively.

PRESENTED BY BETWAY

LINEUPS…

Oilers

RNH – McDavid – Hyman
Kane – Draisaitl – Brown
Janmark – McLeod – Foegele
Gagner – Hamblin – Ryan
Nurse – Ceci
Ekholm – Bouchard
Kulak – Desharnais
Skinner
Knoblauch moved Derek Ryan to the fourth line and moved Janmark up last game. It paid off as Janmark produced three assists while Ryan McLeod and Warren Foegele both scored. The line was great, and Knoblauch outlined his reasoning for the move.
“When I got here I heard a lot of how smart Janmark was, how reliable he is and watching him play it is clear he is,” said Knoblauch. “He’s a really smart hockey player. He does all the small things well. And another thing was I looked through Foegele’s points the past two years and seeing how he scores his goals. A couple things came to mind, of how he generated his offence, and the thing that showed up a lot was him on his off-wing. We wanted to put Foegele on his off-wing, so then we needed someone on the left side. The trust we have and type of player Janni (Janmark) is led us to make that decision.”
I appreciate the Knoblauch’s willingness to explain why he makes certain decisions.

Wild

Kaprizov – Rossi – Zuccarello
Johansson – Eriksson Ek – Boldy
Foligno – Gaudreau – Maroon
Duhaime – Dewar –Hartman
Brodin – Faber
Middleton – Spurgeon
Goligoski – Merrill
Fleury
Marc-Andre Fleury has yet to find any consistency this season. He’s made one start with John Hynes and stopped 28 of 29 v. Chicago. In his other two starts v. Western Conference teams he allowed eight goals v. Dallas and five v. LA. Tonight is his first road start v. a western foe. He’s had great success v. the Oilers in his career going 16-4-1. He was 8-1 with Pittsburgh, 4-2 with Vegas, 2-0 in Chicago and 2-1 with the Wild and 13 of those games have come in the McDavid-Draisaitl era.
He had a strong game v. Chicago, but he’s only had consecutive games with a Sv% above .900 once this season.

TONIGHT…

 
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers continue to win and skate by the Wild 4-1.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers’ PP scores. Ever since a meeting in Carolina — in which the players didn’t discuss tactics, but rather acknowledged last year’s record breaking success — the PP has been red hot again.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Connor Brown ends his 35-game goalless streak. It will be his second career goal v. Minnesota. His first came on November 8th, 2017.

MONTH OF GIVING…

Thanks to Douglas for his awesome bid of $6200 for the membership at Glendale Golf and Country Club.

DAY Six: Pyramid of Giving
We will build a pyramid of giving to help Adopt-A-Teen. It is a simple donation.
We will have 15 people donate $100.
Ten people donate $200.
Four people donate $500.
Two people, or companies, will donate $1000.
And we will raise $7,500 for Adopt-A-Teen. (Tax receipt included).

It goes from 2-6 p.m. on Sports 1440. You can text the show between 2-6 p.m. at 833.401.1440 and include your name and donation amount. Then the staff at Adopt-A-Teen will call you to get your information.
Thanks in advance.

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