After being off for a few days the Oilers find themselves on the 2nd game of the CBC Hockey Night In Canada double-header against the Avalanche. Both clubs are struggling this season and trade rumours are the story for both teams.
Ryan Whitney has been made a healthy scratch several times this year and his future with the team is in doubt. The Oilers needed a better performance form Whitney in order to climb the standings, but it hasnt happened. They expected a top 4 Defender and they’ve been getting 6-7 type work instead.
With Karlsson going down due to a horrible injury I think its safe to say that the demand for an offensively minded defenseman just went up. There will be obvious speculation about whether Whitney could fit in Ottawa because the fit seems right. Karlsson is only out this season (they hope) and Whitney is an expiring UFA. The fact that the Senators are based in the East and probably havent been watching Whitney very closely is also a plus for the Oilers. The only real question is whether or not Murray and the Senators’ brass wants to really go for it with Spezza and Karlsson out or if they want to just ride it out. Ottawa sits 7th in the East and it would be a difficult sell to their fanbase if they just sat back and let the season slide.
For the Avs the Sword hanging over their heads is the Ryan O’Reilly situation. O’Reilly is reportedly asking for the Moon and the Stars as he holds out on the Avs. It seems as though he will be traded eventually because of the distance between what is being offered and his demands. O’Reilly is coming off of a career year in which he recorded 55 points. No doubt he believes he should get a hefty raise, but that high water mark is more than double his previous high. That fact combined with his lack of scoring in Juniour makes the likelihood of maintaining that level of offense doubtful in my eyes. I just dont see the risk being worth it for the Avs. Where he ends up and for how much is the matter of speculation around the league, but his contract demands will likely scare off a few potential suitors.
The Oilers are coming off of a heartbreaking loss that can be chalked up to Angry Hockey Gods. They outplayed the Stars and somehow lost the game 4-1. The continuing scoring drought for the team’s premier players is become more and more pronounced. Its only natural for frustration to mount, but the good news is that the Oilers are creating a fair number of scoring chances. I’m confident the Oil will break out eventually.
Oilers Keys to the Game
1) Keep Going
The Oilers were physically engaged, unafraid to dump the puck, and taking shots as the opportunities presented themselves. The change in willingness to get dirty was a huge step forward for the Oilers. It really created a lot of mismatches and allowed the skill to come out in the offensive zone. If they hadnt faced the red hot Lehtonen I wouldnt be worried about the Oilers taking their foot off the pedal. The Oilers were not rewarded for their efforts but 9 times out of 10 they will come away winning if they replicate that performance.
2) Whitney’s Game
Ryan Whitney needs to find his game. He is being inserted back into the lineup tonight and he’s had some time to think about what he hasnt been doing well. He needs to be better if he wants to either play more for the Oilers or get traded to another club. More bad games from him will keep the Oilers in this slide for a long time.
3) Take Advantage of a Depleted Lineup
The Avs are still missing Landeskog and now Erik Johnson is out with an injury as well. Combined with the lack of O’Reilly and Downie this team should be struggling to find offense. The Oilers have to take advantage of such a depleted roster. The truth is that the Oilers top 2 lines should be a handful the way they were last game and if they are then mistakes will be made in their defensive zone.
Puck drops at 8:10 PM Mountain time on CBC. Game On!