In an 82-game season, there will be times when teams focus on different things to motivate them. When the organization and head coach gives you two nights off in Vegas, the best thing the players can do is repay them with a solid performance the next game. Because it might lead to more fun nights out as a team.
“You want a good performance,” said former NHLer Jason Strudwick yesterday when discussing the first game after the team-bonding weekend in Vegas. “It isn’t your sole focus of course, but when I played it was always brought up pre-game to ensure we gave a good effort. I remember Ethan Moreau really harping on it after a few nights out in LA. We came out flying against the Kings and won. And we weren’t as talented as this Oilers team.”
It might be a small part of the motivation for tonight, but you always look for something to help you prepare, and after a rare two-night stay in Vegas after Friday’s 5-3 victory, I’m curious to see how the Oilers respond against the Flyers. I get the sense they will want to reward their head coach and GM for the extended stay in Vegas.
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SMALL DETAILS…
How things change. After years of struggling as a team to win faceoffs, the Oilers are second in the NHL in face off% at 56.2%, trailing only the Flyers (59%). Despite their overall success, Dave Tippett focused on faceoff coverage at the end of the morning skate today. Vegas scored two goals directly off faceoffs last Friday. They weren’t glaring errors, but Tippett felt if there was a bit more effort they might have been able to thwart those chances.
The faceoff battle will be a good storyline to watch.
Claude Giroux is 69.1% in the dot. He is 38-17. He’s also 10-4 on the penalty kill which is very impressive, and could play a big role if the Flyers hope to slow down the Oilers’ dominant power play. Leon Draisaitl is 64.5% overall, going 60-33, and he is 15-7 on the power play.
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Draisaitl is a lefty and Giroux is a righty, so both of them will be on their strong side for the start of each power play. Draisaitl gets to choose which side to take the draw on and most go on their strong side.
Sean Couturier is 62.1% (36-22), but he is 4-7 on the PK, while 27-11 (71%) at even strength. And Derek Ryan is 59.1% (39-27) for the Oilers.
The face-off matchups overall, and specifically on special teams, should be great battles.

LINEUPS…

Oilers

Hyman– McDavid – Puljujarvi
RNH – Draisaitl – Yamamoto
Foegele – Ryan – Kassian
Perlini – Shore – Turris
Nurse – Bouchard
Keith – Ceci
Koekkoek – Barrie
Koskinen
Three changes see Brendan Perlini, Kyle Turris, and Slater Koekkoek back in while Tyler Benson, Colten Sceviour and Kris Russell come out.

Flyers

Giroux – Couturier – Konecny
Farabee – Brassard – Atkinson
Lindblom – Laughton– Van Riemsdyk
Aube-Kubel – Thompson – MacEwan
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Provorov – Braun
Sanheim – Ristolainen
Yandle – Seeler
Hart
The Flyers have three scoring lines. Joel Farabee has picked up where he left off last season and is showing why Flyers management wanted to lock him up long term. Will either coach try to get a specific matchup, or will we see a pretty clear rotation? I suspect Philly will try to get Couturier against McDavid as much as they can.

WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

Philadelphia will be without the services of Ryan Ellis for this game. Ryan Ellis is second best in the league by xGA/60 at 5-on-5. The Flyers as a team rank twenty-ninth in this stat. Do the math. Unless Carter Hart brings the heat tonight, this might end up being a tough loss due to injuries (Kevin Hayes is still missing too), tinkering (the Ristolainen/Sanheim experiment continues), and poor matchups (the Flyers’ penalty kill against THAT power play).
The player to watch for Philly is Carter Hart, obviously, but we’d also like to invite you to our new club, the Keith Yandle Enjoyers™. Professor Sonk is second among all Flyers defenders in xGF%, behind only… Nick Seeler. Maybe numbers are lies after all. Regardless, Yandle is a force on offense, directing the Orange & Black power play like a wonderful, goofy maestro. He was one of the surprise MVPs of the home stand, and might keep being a good player in a limited role.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
GAME DAY PREDICTION: Edmonton continues its hot start and skates away with a 4-3 victory.
OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: McDavid extends his multi-point streak to six games.
NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Yamamoto scores a goal at 5×5. His first 5×5 goal in 31 games.

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