It’s Saturday night, I’m in Vegas, and the Edmonton Oilers have a huge divisional matchup coming up against the Golden Knights. Does it get any better than that? It certainly doesn’t!
Capping off what was a critical week for the Edmonton Oilers, the boys will be squaring off against the Golden Knights for what could be a monstrous four-point swing against a team they’re chasing in the standings. Coming into round two of the season series, Vegas is currently nine points ahead of Edmonton in the standings, and finding a way to chip away at their lead makes tonight’s matchup one of the most important games on the schedule so far. After a rough loss on Monday against the Kings, the Oilers rattled off two big wins in a row against a pair of weaker teams, and now it will be time for them to do the same against a much stronger opponent. If the Oilers have any real hopes of climbing their way back up toward the top of the Pacific, they’re going to need to claw and scratch and bust their asses to win games exactly like this one. Seems simple enough, right?
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As strange as it is to say with 37 games left in the year, the Oilers have to be feeling the pressure to make something happen given the way the first half of their year has gone, and you’d think that weight would feel even heavier against the division leader. That said, the Oilers already have a win against the Golden Knights this year and I see no reason why they couldn’t do it again even on the second half of a back-to-back set. On the obvious side, it would be great if the offensive mojo from the last couple of games can carry over into this game, but I think the bigger to-do from an Oilers perspective is finding a way to weather the early storm. Every team needs time to get their legs going on night two, and finding a way to navigate those first handfuls of shifts without giving up a goal will be huge. If the boys can keep the Golden Knights off the board long enough to get the blood pumping then I see no reason why the Oilers shouldn’t be in the mix to win this hockey game. Besides, last night was Connor McDavid’s 26th birthday and I could see no better way to celebrate than with a big night out in Las Vegas after a huge Hockey Night in Canada win.
Let’s see what the numbers say.

LINEUPS…

Oilers

Holloway – McDavid – Ryan
McLeod – Draisaitl – Hyman
Janmark – RNH – Kostin
Foegele – Puljujarvi
Nurse – Ceci
Kulak – Barrie
Broberg – Bouchard
Desharnais
Pickard
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Seeing as the Oilers played last night, I don’t expect too much in terms of info regarding lineup changes outside of Calvin Pickard potentially getting the start. As of yesterday, Mark Spector tweeted that the newest lil’ Skinner hadn’t yet arrived, which meant Calvin Pickard could actually be in line to get his first start since January 28th of 2022 when he was with the Red Wings. Will he actually get the start? I have no idea, but this is a massive game for the Oilers and the decision about playing Pickard or Campbell again is going to be a big one.

Golden Knights

Smith – Eichel – Marchessault
Amadio – Stephenson – Kessel
Cotter – Karlsson – Kolesar
Carrier – Roy – Froese
Hague – Pietrangelo
McNabb – Korczak
Martinez – Pachal
Thompson
I really can’t stand the Vegas Golden Knights. Ever since they’ve come into the league, they’ve had way too much fun as a franchise, and outside of last year’s playoff miss, they’re looking like they’ll be back in again barring some kind of collapse. It’s annoying, I hate it, but I’m also having a blast in this city and could think of no better wait to kick off our last night here than with a big Oilers win.
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WHAT THEY’RE SAYING…

When the Golden Knights are playing at their best it starts in the defensive zone, or more specifically, how quickly they are getting out of the defensive zone.
For Vegas to be consistently successful, they need the game to be under their control in all three zones. From generating large numbers of chances based on extended offensive zone time, to having the proper setup through the neutral zone, to breaking the puck out of the defensive zone, each piece relies upon the next.
Defensive breakouts might be the most boring portion of the game of hockey but the way the Golden Knights are structured they are crucial to the team’s success this season. Good breakouts lead to quick transition chances like the one Smith rang off the post and also help to keep good structure in the neutral zone meaning better gaps from the defensemen.
Late in the 3rd period last night it all came together and operated harmoniously. The more often the Golden Knights can play like that, the more and more they’ll look like a bonafide Stanley Cup contender.

TONIGHT…

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk
Game Day Prediction: I’m in the building and therefore I must demand a 4-2 win.
Obvious Game Day Prediction: Connor McDavid scores another goal because he will do everything he can to drag this team forward.
Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction: The Oilers get a goal from two separate players not named McDavid, Draisaitl, Nugent-Hopkins, or Hyman.