Tonight the Oilers take on the New York Rangers at Rogers Place, 7:00 start MST. The Oilers come into tonights game coming off a loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, but they have been playing good hockey lately. The Oilers are 6-2-2 in their last 10 but will need to play even better than that if they have any hopes to continue this playoff push. The Wild who currently hold down the second and final Wild card spot are also 6-2-2 in their last 10 games, meaning the Oilers have gained zero points in the last 10 game sin their push for the playoffs. As the Oilers finish out the rest of the season I’d much rather see them continue to push and play good hockey then tank for better draft odds. Dropping one or two spots in the standings to give you a 3% better chance at winning a lottery pick, to me isn’t worth sacrificing some fun hockey. I’ve watched this team lose for the better part of 13 years, having a stretch of good hockey is a nice change of pace and I’d like to see it continue.
The New York Rangers are currently in full Rebuild mode and are 11 points out of a playoff spot but they are 1 point ahead of the Oilers in the overall standings. This is a testament to how bad the West is this season because the Oilers still have hope but the Rangers are all but guaranteed to miss the playoffs. The last meeting between these two teams was on October 13, 2018. It was the Oilers third game of the season and the Oilers were 0-2 heading into the matchup, both losses weren’t even close, it was a very important game to get the Oilers season on track and they managed to pull out a tightly contested 2-1 win in regulation against the Blue Shirts. The Oilers would then go on to win their next two games against powerhouse opponents Boston and Winnipeg. Hopefully the Oilers can get the same result and momentum from tonights game. The Oilers are again coming off a loss and the season seems to be at risk. The Oilers need to win this game then go on a run if they have any hope. Let’s hope it happens for the sake of fun hockey.
The Rangers were sellers at the deadline again this year, the roster doesn’t have much left from their playoff days. They still have Lundqvist and Zibanejad, plus Shattenkirk and some other young guys that are starting to find their way. In a few seasons I would expect the rebuild to be mostly complete and have the Rangers back in the playoff mix.
Tonight also marks the first time the Oilers will face Ryan Strome since Chiarelli traded him for Ryan Spooner. Since the trade Strome has 23 points in 49 games vs just 2 points in 18 games for the Oilers this season. The man who came to the Oilers in the trade, Ryan Spooner, had just 3 points in 25 games before being sent down to the minors and eventually traded to the Vancouver Canucks for Sam Gagner. Gagner has seemingly been the best fit for the Oilers out of all three players and has 5 points in 11 games for the Oilers. Ryan Strome is probably the best player out of all 3 guys, for whatever reason he just didn’t fit in in Edmonton.
Draisaitl – McDavid – Kassian
Khaira – RNH – Gagner
Rieder – Cave – Chiasson
Malone – Brodziak – Currie
Klefbom – Larsson
Nurse – Russell
Sekera – Benning
Koskinen looks to be back in the pipes after missing the last game with an illness, Stolarz to me didn’t look too bad but the Oilers are going to run Koskinen as long as they can with the playoffs still a hope. Lucic will miss his second straight game with an injury. Kassian is playing very well lately, hopefully he can continue and have this same success consistently next season as well. That would be a huge win for the Oilers if he could do that. Banking on him continuing this success next year though would be a foolish move by the Oilers next GM, it’s the reason the Oilers haven’t improved the last couple of years because bets were made on internal improvement and none of it happened.
Namestnikov – Zibanejad – Chytil
Krieder – Strome – Fast
Lemieux – Howden – Buchnevich
Vesey – Andersson – Nieves
Shattenkirk – Skjei
Smith – DeAngelo
Hajek – Poink
Andersson was the 7th pick in the Pettersson draft, playing him on the 4th line probably isn’t the best for his development but he’s about the only option the Rangers have. He would probably best be served tearing up the minors right now. Libor Hajek is playing in just his 6th NHL game tonight, he recently scored his first career goal. As is the case with any rookie blue liner, the Oilers should make a point to try and expose him as he’s trying to adjust to the speed of the NHL.