The Oilers are entering tonights matchup coming off a 3-2 win against the New York Rangers. The Oilers took control of the game early and got out to a lead, then in the third period New York battled back to send the game to overtime where Connor and Leon worked their magic. Leon Draisaitl scored his 42nd goal of the year, and also recorded to assists to briefly move into 4th in league scoring with 89 points. Crosby and Gaudreau (who had a 6 point night last night!) have both since moved ahead of Draisaitl by one point. Draisaitl’s point streak is now at 14 games, where he has recorded 23 points. Some of his biggest games have come without McDavid in the lineup, Leon has continually gotten better each year he’s been in the league but his play this season has been something else. He is showing that he is an elite player in this league and he’s bound determined to make the contract he signed look like a bargain. Leon is only 4 goals back of Alexander Ovechkin for 1st in the league, it’s possible he could pass Ovie and hit 50 goals. If that were to happen Leon would be the first Oiler ever to win the Rocket, it was introduced in the league in 1999. Leon would be the first Oiler to lead the league in goals though since Wayne Gretzky in 1986-87. If the Oilers completely fall out of the playoff race this will be the story I’m most interested in following.
Connor McDavid is also heating up, he is technically on a 7 game point streak but actually has points in 9 straight games (he missed 3 due to illness/suspension). On this streak he has 16 points and is tied with Patrick Kane for 2nd in the league with 98 points. Two more points and McDavid will have 3 straight 100 point seasons which hasn’t been done since Ovechkin did it in 07/08, 08/09, 09/10. With Draisaitl coming in hot, they could be the first pair of teammates to hit the 100 point mark since Ovechkin and Backstrom in the 09/10 season. Even with the amount of offence these two guys are putting up for Edmonton, they would trade all of it just to get into the playoffs. These two alone might be able to drag the rest of their crew to the final wild card spot, the chase continues tonight. A win against New Jersey puts the Oilers 4 points back of the Coyotes for the last wild card spot with 12 games to go.
New Jersey is coming into tonight on the second of a back to back. Last night they were embarrassed by the Calgary Flames 9-4, so they will probably come hard out of the gate to try and redeem themselves for their poor performance last night. Should the Oilers be able to fend that off competently, they will need to lay on the throttle and tire out the Devils and take advantage of the little rest they’ve had. The Oilers need to keep winning at a very high pace if they want to make the playoffs, so getting wins against non-playoff teams like New Jersey is essential. It gives the Oilers a little breathing room when they take on the big guns such as Calgary and San Jose at the end of the season.
The Oilers have the most favourable schedule rest wise and strength of schedule wise of any of the teams still fighting for that final wildcard spot, so for me playoffs is still a slight possibility. However, looking past this game, if the Oilers lose to Arizona on Saturday I will call the playoff drive dead, if the win both tonight and on Saturday, there is still hope.
Draisaitl – McDavid – Kassian
Lucic – RNH – Gagner
Rieder – Cave – Chaisson
Khaira – Brodziak – Rattie
Klefbom – Larsson
Nurse – Russell
Sekera – Benning
Lucic is back in the lineup tonight as well as Klefbom. Klefbom took a tough shot to the pills that took him out of the game on Tuesday but the coach says he’s good to go which is awesome news for the Oilers. Since all of the Oilers top 6 has been healthy, they have played some good hockey, to lose Klefbom right now would’ve been a huge blow. Khaira will also be in the lineup tonight after a maintenance day yesterday.
Coleman – Zajac – Palmieri
Agostino – Rooney – Stafford
Tangradi – Mcleod – Anderson
Nosen – Pietila – Lappin
Greene – Severson
Butcher – Carrick
Yakolev – Santini
The Devils are riddled with injuries right now, they are missing a large quanity of players as well as lot’s of quality in the lineup. Out of the lineup tonight is Hall, and Hischer (two #1 Overall picks), Sami Vatanen a solid top 4 defnseman, Miles Wood the speedster, Pavel Zacha former top 10 pick. as well as many more. This has been a big reason for the Devils recent struggles. People say the Oilers look like an AHL team that has McDavid and Draisaitl. New Jersey right now looks like an AHL team that doesn’t have any thing close to the quality of those two in the lineup. The Oilers need to take advantage of this weak lineup tonight.
The closer the end of the season we get, the more important each game is, tonight is no different. Biggest game of the season tonight… until the next game.