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GDB 54.0: Home Ice for the Playoffs is within Reach for the Oilers (7pm MT, SNW)

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
1 month ago
Three months ago, the Edmonton Oilers were 20 points back of the Vegas Golden Knights. Tonight, the Oilers have a chance to erase that deficit completely and tie Vegas for second place in the Pacific Division with 70 points. And the Oilers would still have three games in hand.
Be sure to check out the latest NHL odds with online sportsbook Betway.
The Oilers have the most points in the NHL, 63, since November 11th, thanks to a 31-9-1 record. Vegas has stumbled since their great start, going 20-17-5 during the same span, which ranks them 24th in points and 21st in points%. We are 57 days away from the end of the regular season, and considering the Oilers are 16-2-1 in their last 19 home games, I don’t think it is too early to discuss home-ice advantage.
The Golden Knights have been floundering for three months, and they continue to be hit with key injuries. Shea Theodore missed 35 games before returning two games ago, but in his first game back, Mark Stone got injured, and it was announced he has a lacerated spleen and will be out for a significant period of time. Jack Eichel hasn’t played since January 11th, although he should be returning in March. Vegas has opened the door for the Oilers, and Edmonton’s stellar 24-3 run in December and January has them in a great spot to pass Vegas, and maybe even track down Vancouver for first place in the Pacific. But the first step is passing Vegas and continuing their ascent up the standings.
Despite the suggestions and claims from some people on social media, Vegas didn’t fake Stone’s injury just so he can return for the playoffs. I find it amazing how some people actually believe this. The truth is Stone is injury prone. This is the third consecutive season he’s had a major injury in the second half of the year. In 2022 he was placed on LTIR in February, but returned for the final nine games and Vegas missed the playoffs. Last year he returned for the playoffs, so because of that now many believe this is clearly a ruse by Vegas to gain cap space.
Take a deep breath and think about that. Vegas fakes his injury. They lose their leading scorer for two months, just so they can gain cap space and acquire another player. This forces them to give up more assets to acquire said player, and then hope he is as productive as Stone has been and help them get out of this three-month skid. They do all of this, just so Stone can return in the playoffs. Quite the plan.
The truth is Vegas hasn’t been very good for three months. They’ve been ravaged by injuries since Kris Knoblauch took over as Oilers head coach on November 12th.
They’ve had 34 different skaters dress in their 42 games over that time.
Only four players — Ivan Barbashev, Jonathan Marchessault, Brayden McNabb and Alex Pietrangelo — have played all 42 games. Shea Theodore missed 35 games. William Carrier missed 21, Eichel 15, William Karlsson and Alec Martinez missed 12 each. Adin Hill played only one game in two months, but after a solid first four games back he has posted a .878Sv% and 4.44 GAA in last four games. Now Stone is out indefinitely, and they only good news they have is they are expecting Eichel to return at some point on their upcoming road trip.
Vegas begins a five-game road trip in Ottawa tomorrow before going to Toronto, Boston, Buffalo and Columbus. Vegas has 25 games remaining with 14 on the road and they play eight games against top-11 teams. The Oilers have 29 games remaining with 16 at home and they play nine games v. top-11 teams.
After a slow start on home ice at 1-4-1, the Oilers have crushed teams to the tune of 16-2-1 and outscored them 83-47 since. They have the best home record (P% wise) in the NHL under Knoblauch, which is why catching Vegas is so important. The next three best home teams in the NHL since November 13th also reside in the Western Conference.
Edmonton has an .868P%, followed by Colorado at .857 (18-3), Winnipeg is at .786P% (16-4-1) and Vancouver sits at .725 (14-5-1).
The Oilers’ quest for home ice shouldn’t just focus on Vegas. That’s the first team they can catch, but they are closing in on the other teams ahead of them.
They are five points back of Winnipeg with a game in hand. They are seven points behind Colorado and eight behind Dallas with five extra games on both clubs. They are 12 points behind Vancouver with six games in hand.
Catching the Canucks will be challenging, but even if they surpass the Central teams and finish second in the West, they could have ice advantage in the third round if they make it. And maybe the biggest factor in the importance of earning home ice is the oddity of how much more productive Connor McDavid has been at home compared to on the road this season.
McDavid has 47 points in 19 home games under Knoblauch. He has 28 points in 21 road games. It is the first time in his career we’ve seen a home/road split like this from McDavid. It could change, and it doesn’t mean he won’t be impactful on the road in the postseason, but in a year where he’s crushing it on home ice, the incentive to earn home ice advantage seems a bit higher.
The Oilers need to win three of the final four games on this homestand. It won’t be easy as Minnesota, Calgary, LA and St. Louis are all either 6-3-1 or 6-4 in their last 10 games. Winning consistently in the NHL is far from easy, but the Oilers have shown they can do it, and their remaining schedule presents a wonderful opportunity for them to avoid having to play a potential game-seven in Vegas in the opening round of the playoffs.

PRESENTED BY BETWAY

LINEUPS…

Oilers

Foegele – McDavid – Hyman
RNH – Draisaitl – Kane
Janmark – McLeod – Perry
Holloway – Ryan – Brown
Nurse – Ceci
Ekholm – Bouchard
Kulak – Desharnais
Pickard
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins returns to the lineup after missing Wednesday’s game with an illness. I asked him how he was as a fan watching from home. “It is more nerve-wracking,” he said. “Even before the game I started to get nervous and I was just watching it (laughs). It is a lot tougher, especially being at home. When you are at the rink, at least you are kind of in it and if you’re upstairs (in the press box) you feel you’re kind of in it. Watching at home is tougher and more frustrating at times, but also exciting.”
Did he curse?
“Umm (laughs), I don’t know if I’m cursing, but at times I did get a little fired up. You want to be a part of it, so there are definitely moments you get a little heated,” said RNH.
He’s happy to be back, and tonight he will skate on a line with Leon Draisaitl and Evander Kane.
Calvin Pickard will look to extend his personal winning streak to seven games. He’s won his last six starts and posted a .916Sv% and a 2.16 GAA.

Wild

Kaprizov – Eriksson Ek – Boldy
Johansson – Hartman –Zuccarello
Lucchini – Rossi – Lettieri
Duhaime –Dewar –Gaudreau
Middleton – Faber
Brodin – Chisholm
Mermis – Merrill
Gustavsson
The Wild’s top line has combined for 16 goals in their last seven games. Kirill Kaprisov and Joel Eriksson-Ek each scored 3-3-6 in their 10-7 victory over Vancouver earlier this week. They are feeling it and their PP is 30% (10-for-30) in their past seven. The struggling Oilers’ PK will have a tough matchup.
Rookie D-man Brock Faber is having an incredible season. If the voting was today he would be the best candidate to win the Calder. Since December 1st he leads all NHL players averaging 26:20 minutes per game. And he isn’t getting caved in. He’s played the ninth most minutes v. Elite players in the NHL and he’s done very well. He’s also chipped in 33 points from the blueline. If you’re a fan of defenders, pay attention to Faber. He is a treat to watch.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Oilers improve to 17-2-1 in their last 20 home games with a 6-3 win over Minnesota.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid matches his career high with points in 21 consecutive home games.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid scores two goals. It is his third multi-goal game of the season. He had 14 last year.

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