Tonight the Oilers will try to make up for the loss against the Flames by coming out string against the Avalanche. The Winner of this one will end up being the Northwest Division leader so the winner has a nice reward waiting for them (Nuge’s Dad said he would take the kids out for Ice Cream if they were ever leading the division at some point past Christmas).
Last year Landeskog won the Calder because
professional hockey writers in the United States dont actually watch hockey of his complete game. Tonight the young Captain will be sitting out after getting his brain scrambled in the last game they played. This works out well for the Oilers because despite being clearly inferior to Nuge, he is still a heck of a hockey player.
Krueger has made a few tweaks to the line-up tonight as he has Petrell playing on the wing with Horc and Smyth and Hartikainen playing with Belanger and Paajarvi. Additionally Krueger has elected to play Potter instead of Fistric. I like the tweaks to the 3rd line but its all just a bandaid until Jones returns from injury. Petrell is defensively aware despite his obvious offensive shortcomings. What the move really does is allow Paajarvi and Hartikainen an opportunity to show some chemistry playing together on the 4th line. This could become a shit show really quickly or the duo could surprise some people.
The move I dont like is sitting Fistric for Potter. The guy playing poorly right now is Whitney, not Fistric. I like what the Edmonton product brings to the table in terms of grit. Quite frankly, the Oilers dont have enough of it. So pairing a poorer version of Whitney WITH Whitney seems like a mistake to me. The roster doesnt have any other open ice hitters and after the top D pairing of Smid and Petry the rest of the D plays a positional game instead of a physical one. There just isnt much balance on the team without Fistric.
Oilers Keys to the Game
1) Stay out of the Friggin Box
We get it. You’re teenagers and rules are for losers. Still, its really hard to win while on the PK for 10 minutes in the 1st period. Just try, maybe possibly, to NOT trip somebody in the offensive zone during your 1st shift. Kthanksbye.
2) Offense from 3 lines
The Oilers can count on the goals from the top 2 lines because their powerplay is manned by that group and there is simply too much talent there to fail consistently, but the 3rd line is dragging ass. They wont get prime minutes in the offensive zone and they arent loaded for Bear with 1st Overall talent, but they have some guys who have been scorers in the past and can play in all 3 areas of the ice. The Oilers can win every game off the backs of the kids, they need that line to step up.
3) Dial It In 5×5
To say the team has underperformed 5×5 is putting it lightly. They arent creating enough chances compared to how many they give up. It might be the growing pains of having a new coach and a non-existent preseason but the excuses arent making anyone feel better. The Penalty Kill is doing its job fairly well (12th in the League, 5th in the West at 83.3%) and the Power Play is clicking along too (7th in the League, 5th in the West), but if 5×5 doesnt pick up it’s all for not. The Oilers could be deadly if they only gave up as much as they created at Evens. This aspect of their game HAS to get better if they have any hope in hell at reaching the Playoffs after 6 years on the outs.
Puck drops 7:30PM Mountain time on Sportsnet. Game On!