The Oilers go into Philly a little light on Hall and heavy on Acton. Forced to play without their best skater the team will have to rely on someone else to jump start their offense. While the first place the mind might go is to Nail Yakupov who could use this opportunity to get more ice time and produce in Hall’s spot on the PP, the reality is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is the person most likely to step up.
All in all, the team will have to pick up their collective socks on this road-trip, but the Oilers are not supposed to be a one man show this season and now is the time to prove it. THIS AND THAT
In Junior RNH was the straw that stirred the drink for his Red Deer Rebels. In Edmonton he hasn’t had to be the go-to guy because Hall was already here. We’ve seen him be the best Oiler on the ice a few times already this season and now is his chance to become the player he was drafted to become. This might be the perfect time for him to do it. He looks faster and stronger, his shot is fantastic, and he’s playing about a minute and a half more than any other forward on the team. Without Hall on his left wing RNH will be forced to play an even more offensive role. Instead of being the distributor and defensively responsible player on the line he’s going to have to take more chances. This opportunity might further unlock his offensive potential.
The news about the lineup was coming at us on the fly yesterday. The blog was updated 4 times with new and changing information. The best news on the day, Nikita Nikitin is going to play tonight which means the Oilers might be icing one of their best defenses all season. Perhaps less exciting was the news that the Oil would simply shift their LWs up the order and spot Acton in on the 4th line. I’m going to reserve judgment on Acton on the 4th line just yet because he has produced a little offense in the role before, but that line isn’t a traditional 4th. It gets lots of starts in the Defensive Zone and against tough comp. I’ll really be judging Eakins if Acton struggles in those situations and isn’t subbed out for Hendricks.
The Flyers are, like Edmonton, a beatable team. Their record is very similar to the Oilers as they are 4-5-2 (compared to 4-6-1) and have lost their last 2 games in a row. By fancy stat the Flyers are the poorer team, ranked 26th in CF compared to Edmonton’s 20th rank by the same metric. Edmonton isn’t great, but their numbers are in the middle cluster as opposed to Philly’s. Unfortunately for the Edmonton Oilers, Taylor Hall has been their leader in the fancies so his loss could certainly tip the balance in the underlying numbers and the club could lose their edge in possession. The hole left behind by the loss of their 1LW doesn’t end at just the points he produces at roughly a point per game pace, he’s truly the team’s motor.
The Oilers have thoroughly dominated the Eastern Conference in terms of Wins and Losses going a perfect 4-0 and it’s paramount to their season that they continue this trend on the road. The problem is that the Oilers are 11 games into the year and still haven’t won a single road game. They’re obviously not going to go the whole year without a win on the road, but much like their inability to win against the West, the seeds of doubt start creeping in. The danger is that the club starts clutching sticks a little too tight or playing too passively at the worst possible time.
The Oilers are in 13th place in the West, 2nd last place, but they have 9 points and not really that far behind the teams ahead of them. A successful trip and some success against Western teams when they start playing them again can bring them right back into the hunt. A bad trip puts them right behind the 8 Ball again. LINEUP
As mentioned above the Oilers re-ordered the LWs on the team to accommodate the Hall injury but the center and right sides of the order stay in place. The biggest question mark will be how Acton handles the duties of the 4th line that isn’t really a 4th line. I anticipate Hendricks taking the occasional double shift. Hendricks is a leader on the team physically and a veteran the coach trusts. I think it’s a solid bet we see him plenty. The new Ference-less Defense is intriguing, though I must admit the last game was probably Ference’s best of the season. Marincin and Petry back as partners. We’re getting the Band back together!
Pouliot RNH Eberle
Hendricks Drai Yak
Purcell Arco Perron
Acton Gordon Joensuu
Scrivens OILERS KEYS TO THE GAME 1) Klefbombs. The Oilers made a decision shortly into the season to return Oscar Klefbom to the AHL and that immediately began to pay off for the club. The big Swede’s best offensive year on record for HockeyDB was the 10 points he produced last year and he was on pace to crush that. The 1-6-7 he produced in just 6 games represents a huge jump for him. Whether it was simply opportunity and luck or it was added tools and confidence has yet to be determined, but it’s exciting to see him do something he’s never done before. 2) Yak Attack. In the first 8 games while he was getting very limited ice-time Yak never managed more than 2 shots on net in a game. He was creating opportunities and he was missing plenty of chances, but he wasn’t getting them on net. In the last 3 games he has 4, 3, and 4 shots on net. It’s only a matter of time before he starts scoring in bunches again with sustained shooting. His physical game has been ramped up all year and he added an exclamation point to it when he hammered a Sedin in an open ice hit. The offense will start to come. Playing with Draisaitl again means he’ll get more OZ starts and he’ll be partnered with a guy who can get him the puck. 3) Beware Giroux. Claude Giroux has 13 points in 11 games but only has a 3.8 sh% on the season so far. He has taken 52 (!) shots this year (good for 2nd in the NHL) but has only scored twice. Nobody who shoots that much and is that talented is going to remain at 3.8%. He’s is going to break out in a big way and it’s up to the Oilers to make sure it doesn’t start with them. He has only dipped below 4 shots a night twice this year. He’s a beast.
Puck drops tonight at 5:08PM Mountain Time on Sportsnet Oilers. Game On! Follow me on Twitter @Archaeologuy
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