How a team wins in December often differs from how it wins in the playoffs. The playoffs are more of a chess match as you face the same team in a seven-game series, but during the season teams face different opponents every game, with different matchups, different personnel and usually less-advanced scouting and preparation.
With four key forwards injured, head coach Jay Woodcroft is relying heavily on his top line, and it is working.
—  The Oilers are 3-0 with Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid playing on the same line. With Evander Kane, Kailer Yamamoto, Warren Foegele, and Ryan McLeod out of the lineup, the Oilers’ depth is much thinner than it was in the playoffs when McDavid and Draisaitl played together (mainly due to Draisaitl’s ankle injury), and the necessity to play their two best forwards together makes sense.
— Draisaitl and McDavid played a total of 61 minutes together at 5×5 in the first 20 games. They’ve played 53:15 in the past three games and have combined for four goals. They have only outscored the opposition 4-3, despite outshooting them 35-23 and producing way more quality chances. Zach Hyman, who has played 32 minutes with Draisaitl and McDavid, has had many quality chances and in the 32 minutes with Hyman they have outscored teams 4-2.
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— But the other three lines have outscored the opposition 5-4 in 78 minutes without McDavid and Draisaitl on the ice. In fact, in 62 minutes without Draisaitl, Mcdavid and Hyman, they have outscored teams 5-4. And they’ve outshot their opponents 34-30 in those 62 minutes. While many have focused on the ice time of McDavid and Draisaitl the past few games, you shouldn’t overlook how the depth forwards have performed. Despite missing four top-nine forwards, the depth forwards have more than held their own.
— And it isn’t just the depth forwards. The D-men have really stepped up their offensive production. The blueliners have combined for 3-5-8 in the past three games.
— Evan Bouchard (2-1-3), Brett Kulak (0-3-3), Ryan McLeod (0-3-3 in one game), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Mattias Janmark (1-1-2) and Jesse Puljujarvi (0-2-2) have all chipped in along with Draisaitl (2-1-3), McDavid (1-1-2) and Hyman (0-2-2).
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— I understand the focus on the top line because of how many minutes they’ve played against the Panthers and Blackhawks, but the rest of the lineup has done their part offensively as well. And that will have to continue if they hope to defeat Minnesota tonight.
— McDavid played a season-high 27:06 last night. Earlier this season he played 26:52 v. Buffalo and then the next game, two nights later v. Carolina, he scored 1-3-4 in 22 minutes. McDavid has told me he feels better when he plays more. I don’t think fatigue will be a factor for him tonight.
— Darnell Nurse might have played his best game of the season last night. He logged 29:09, made an excellent pass on Draisaitl’s first goal, had six shots on goal and was +4. Last season Nurse played 28:28 in Florida on February 26th and on February 27th he logged 25:57 v. Carolina. He has played big minutes many nights including in back-to-back situations.
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— Jesse Puljujarvi has made two really nice passes that led to goals the past few games. The Oilers desperately need him to find some consistent offensive production and those passes should give him a boost. He’s made more plays with the puck the past three games than he did in the first 20, so it is progress. Now he needs to maintain it.
— Jack Campbell is 0-2-1 in his career v. Minnesota, but he’s only allowed seven goals in three games and has a .920Sv% and 2.31 GAA. He needs a strong performance tonight. He’s only had four games with a Sv% above .910, but he can’t focus on the past. He needs to find some consistency and confidence and give his team a chance to win tonight. He will need a strong first period as the Oilers have been unable to find much in the way of offence in the first frame.
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— Minnesota is one of only eight teams that have averaged more than one goal against/period in the first period. The Wild have allowed 23 goals in the first period through 21 games. They scored 17, which ranks 21st. Minnesota’s first period struggles mirror those of the Oilers, who sit 27th in first period goals and 23rd in first period goals allowed. Winning the first period would be huge for Edmonton tonight.

MONTH OF GIVING…

Our 12th annual Month of Giving begins today. Every weekday from today through to Friday, December 23rd, we will be auctioning off a package on my TSN 1260 radio show with all the proceeds going to various charities including The Christmas Bureau, Santas Anonymous, Operation Friendship Senior Society, The Mayfield Rotary Club, Holiday Hamper Program, Adopt-A-Teen and more.
We have a new package (s) every day, and you can see all the packages for each week at Jasongregor.com so you can plan ahead and make sure you don’t miss out on a package. We will update the last two weeks of package later next week.
DAY One: A Furnace or AC Unit courtesy of Legacy Heating and Cooling
There are two items up for grabs, and the winning bid can choose which one they want.
This is what you receive with the furnace:
  • One installed Goodman GMVM 97% Energy Star High Efficiency Modulating Variable-Speed ECM Gas Furnace
  • Comes with permit and inspection fees
  • Ecobee Pro Thermostat or Google Nest Thermostat
  • Removal and disposal of old furnace
  • 10-year Parts/Labour – Lifetime Heat Exchanger on Furnace
Here is what you get with the AC Unit:
  • One installed Goodman GSX16 16 Seer Air Conditioner with Evaporator coil, pad/bracket and electrical connections.
  • Comes with permit and inspection fees
  • Ecobee Pro Thermostat or Google Nest Thermostat
  • UV Light Coil Purifier
  • 10-year Parts/Labour/Compressor on Air Conditioner
You can bid by listening to TSN 1260 and calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260 between 2-6 p.m. today in support of the Christmas Bureau.