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Game Notes Oilers @ Red Wings: Don’t Overlook The Wings

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Photo credit:Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Jason Gregor
7 months ago
Despite going 10-3-3 and having the third best points% in the NHL since January 1st, the Oilers are not comfortably in a playoff spot.
The Oilers occupy the first wild card spot, but they are only three points out of first place in the Pacific Division. It continues to be a very tight race.
Vegas has 68 points, LA has 67, Seattle 66, and Edmonton 65. The Oilers do have a game in hand on the Kings and a victory tonight would move them into second place. Tonight is their last game of an eight-game stretch v. a bottom-11 team. Their schedule will get more difficult with upcoming games against the Rangers, Avalanche, Flyers, Penguins, Blue Jackets and Bruins.
— The Oilers need a win, especially on home ice. Edmonton is tied with Seattle for the fewest home points of the 16 playoff teams, and they’ve played one more home game than the Kraken have. If the Oilers want home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, they must start winning more games on home ice. The Oilers are 4-1-2 in their last seven home games, after starting the season 9-10-1, so they are improving, but that needs to continue tonight v. the Red Wings.
— Detroit is 6-3 in its last nine games are is riding a three-game winning streak. Detroit crushed Vancouver in a home-and-away series by scores of 5-2 and 6-1. The Wings are six points behind Washington for the second WC spot, but they have four games in hand. They have five games in hand on Buffalo and Florida. The odds are low they will make it, but the fact they are close and playing well makes them a more dangerous opponent.
— On the recent four-game road trip at 5×5 without Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, the Oilers outscored their opponents 4-1. With McDavid and Draisaitl on the ice (together or apart) they were outscored 7-3. McDavid and Draisaitl have been on for 93 minutes, and they’ve been off for 88. Edmonton’s other lines have performed well. Draisaitl is battling a cold and has some nagging injury (nothing serious). He played well vs. Ottawa and the Oilers could use a big game from their two superstars tonight.
— Klim Kostin is still day-to-day. He did practice yesterday on a line with Jesse Puljujarvi and Devin Shore. I’m guessing two of those players won’t dress tonight. Shore is the obvious one, and Kostin could be the other as he recovers from crashing into the boards vs. Ottawa. When Kostin returns he needs to get back to moving his feet more. His first few months, he was moving his feet and creating havoc. We haven’t seen as much of that lately.
— In 2023 Jack Campbell has won all nine of his starts, while Stuart Skinner has won one of seven. Campbell has a 2.32 GAA while Skinner is at 3.58. I don’t think Skinner has played poorly, but he hasn’t been as steady as he was in the first three months — which is fine, because Campbell has found his game. If Campbell has another strong game tonight, I could see Campbell getting the bulk of the starts for a short time.
— Skinner has had a whirlwind the last six weeks. He welcomed a son into the world, and wisely took six days off to be present for the momentous occasion. He signed the biggest contract of his life, and he played in the All-Star game. That is a lot in a short period of time, and I wonder if some extra practice time will allow him to reset.
— The Oilers’ blueline has been in a goal funk since late November. Evan Bouchard doesn’t have a goal in 32 games. Brett Kulak hasn’t scored in 27 games, Darnell Nurse has gone 17 games without a goal. Tyson Barrie did score twice v. Chicago, but he’s only scored a goal in one of his last 18 games. Cody Ceci hasn’t scored since the second game of the season. He’s goalless in 52 games. Philip Broberg (26 games) and Vincent Desharnais (12) have yet to score this season.
They have combined for 63 assists in the last 32 games. Barrie has 22 points in 32 games, Nurse has 15, Bouchard 11 and Kulak 10, so they are still chipping in offensively, but it would be nice to see a few more goals from the blue line. They’ve had some great chances recently, especially Nurse. The Oilers haven’t needed them to score, which is good, as Edmonton leads the NHL with 3.72 goals/game, but the Oilers are 28th in goals from the blue line with 19. Only Montreal and Toronto (18) and Pittsburgh and Vancouver (17) have fewer.
— In the last 32 games, Erik Karlsson has 7-34-41. Some have suggested the Oilers could use a better defensive D-man. I’d argue Karlsson’s elite offensive skills, combined with his solid possession numbers make him the ideal target. I understand the cost would be high, but if the Sharks are willing to retain 40% (or more), I’d make the deal. But I also think it is a significant longshot and there are risks.
— If Evan Bouchard is involved that doesn’t mean he is a bad player. In fact, I’d argue it is the opposite. Usually, if you want an elite player you need to give up a good young player.
St. Louis traded Tage Thompson for Ryan O’Reilly. It worked for the Blues, and a few years later Thompson has emerged a star for the Sabres. Jarome Iginla was dealt to Calgary for Joe Nieuwendyk. Dallas won a Cup, and Iginla was the face of the Flames’ franchise for 16 seasons.  When the Oilers acquired Chris Pronger, Eric Brewer was the main piece going to St. Louis. Brewer played on Canada’s Olympic team. He was a solid player. Don’t confuse mentioning Bouchard in a deal with Karlsson to mean he is bad, and that the Oilers are giving up on him. You have to give something of value if you want an elite player in return.w
— Edmonton has scored the second most first period goals (20) since January 1st, while the Red Wings have allowed the second fewest (9). The Wings outscored the Oilers 1-0 in the first period last Tuesday, before the Oilers erupted for three goals in five minutes in the second frame. Edmonton allowed the first goal in three of the four games on the road trip. They need to reverse that trend.

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