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GDB 59.0: Road Warriors (5pm MT, SNW)

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Photo credit:Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
1 year ago
The Edmonton Oilers have been one of the best road teams in the NHL this season. They are tied with Boston and New Jersey with the most regulation wins with 17 and they have the seventh-best points% in the league, which is a stark contrast to their home record which ranks 15th in regulation wins and 22nd in points%.
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Edmonton has been a much better team on the road this season and that needs to continue on this brief two-game trip tonight in Pittsburgh and Saturday in Columbus.
The Penguins and Blue Jackets are below the Oilers in the standings, and Edmonton needs these four points because six of their next seven games are against teams ahead of them in the standings. They play Boston, Toronto and Winnipeg twice each. Those games will be a great measuring stick for the Oilers, and banking these points before next week is vital if they want to keep pace with Vegas, LA and Seattle.
The Oilers are 22-10-5 v. the 18 teams currently with a lower points%. They have 11 games remaining v. those teams including the Penguins and Blue Jackets. They have 13 remaining v. teams above them in the standings, including eight games v. Western Conference teams who are slightly ahead of them in the standings or in the P% race.
The Penguins are far from a pushover, and they need the two points more than the Oilers, due to the tight wildcard race in the East, but the Penguins are a team the Oilers match up well against. Edmonton has more speed and skill up front. The Oilers’ top-line forwards are more explosive, and the past two months Edmonton’s depth scorers have played very well.
But the Penguins have Tristan Jarry back and that is a huge boost for them. He returned v. the Islanders on Tuesday after missing nine games with an injury. The Penguins were 4-4-1 without him, but they allowed 3.66 goals/game with Casey DeSmith and Dustin Tokarski in goal. Jarry makes them a much tougher opponent.
The Oilers have been very good on the road v. Western Conference teams going 12-3-2, but they are 5-5-1 v. the East. They’ve won in Florida, Tampa, Detroit, Ottawa and New York (Rangers), while losing in Carolina, New Jersey, Montreal, Washington and New York (Islanders). They lost in a SO in Philadelphia. Edmonton needs to limit the “gift” goals which have reappeared in their game recently.
Early in the season, the Oilers were beating themselves with terrible giveaways that led directly to goals. They eliminated that in January and it showed in the win column, but the unforced errors have reappeared.
This pass from Cody Ceci to Philip Broberg is a prime example. He wasn’t pressured, and that pass had to be on Broberg’s tape, or Ceci could’ve carried it out of the zone.
Mistakes will happen in the NHL. The game is too fast for them not to, but when you limit them to 3s and 4s on a scale of 1-10, instead of 9s and 10s, the errors rarely end up in your net. The Oilers need to get back to reducing the glaring unforced errors that have slowly started to emerge recently.

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LINEUPS…

Oilers

RNH – McDavid – Hyman
Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Foegele – Mcleod – Janmark
Shore – Ryan – Puljujarvi
Nurse – Ceci
Kulak – Barrie
Broberg – Bouchard
Desharnais
Skinner
I don’t expect any lineup changes. In order for Kostin to play, the Oilers have to re-assign Devin Shore to the AHL. I don’t think Kostin is ready to play yet. He did take part in line rushes this morning, but as we’ve seen the past few games with 11 forwards there are very few line combinations that play together for the majority of the game.
Stuart Skinner will start consecutive games for the first time January 21st and 25th. Much of that was due to the birth of his son, and the extended All-Star break/bye week. Skinner hadn’t won a game in a month prior to Tuesday’s victory and getting him back into a regular rhythm of starts will be good for him, and likely the team.
Penguins
Guentzel – Crosby – Rakell
Zucker – Malkin – Rust
McGinn – Carter – Kapanen
O’Connor – Blueger – Archibald
Dumoulin – Letang
Pettersson – Petry
Joseph – Ruhwedel
Jarry
Petry will be a game-time decision for the Penguins.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton wins its third consecutive game in Pittsburgh for the first time since 1989. Oilers win 4-3.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid picks up his 52nd power play point of the season.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Leon Draisaitl scores a goal in his sixth consecutive game, the first time he’s done that in his career.

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