In a compact, compressed schedule, it’s hard to believe that the Edmonton Oilers have only played eleven games in the last 31 days. That is the reality, however. Thanks to COVID-19 shutdowns of the Montreal Canadiens and Vancouver Canucks, Edmonton’s schedule has been changed more times than expected.
It’s part of the nature of a COVID season, it wasn’t unexpected. In fact, the Oilers spoke about this exact thing happening when they all arrived in town in late December in advance of training camp. Still, the long layoffs have impacted this group.
Edmonton played a stretch of three games in four nights late last week, going 2-1-0. They haven’t played in a week, but will return to game action tonight in Winnipeg against the Jets.
Will the long layoff help or hurt the Oilers tonight?
“If you ask me Monday, I would say they help. But if you ask me Thursday, guys want to get playing,” Head Coach Dave Tippett said about the situation on Friday. “We came off that four-in-six and we needed a break both mentally and physically. Now by Thursday and Friday, you want to get playing.”
The Oilers will get playing, and finally get into a rhythm. After tonight’s contest, the Oilers will return home for games on Monday and Wednesday night against the Canadiens. After four days off, they’ll host the Jets for a pair and then jump into a two-game ‘Battle of Alberta’ set.
All that being said, the coaching staff isn’t worried about what the schedule says. They are just preparing the team for what they can control.
“All this stuff, as a coach, you’re going to work with it anyway it comes,” Tippett continued. “You’re going to try to make the best of it and try to make sure your team is prepared whether you got six days off or are trying to get them rest in a four-in-six. No matter what happens, you’re always just trying to maximize what you’re doing. It probably gets a little more frustrating the first day or two you get that rest and then you come back and now want to get going again. I think our guys will be anxious to play tomorrow but that rhythm of playing every other day, that’s the rhythm you want to get into.”
Tippett and the coaching staff aren’t the only ones wanting to get back into the rhythm.
“It’s nice to have some breaks but at the same time, you want to be in that rhythm and this time of the year, you want to be playing really well and be in a groove going into playoffs,” Tyson Barrie said Friday. “This week especially, we had two days off and then some good practices. It’s a bit of a refresher, reset and we’ve got a big 14 games to finish here so hopefully we can get into that rhythm and avoid any more interruptions.”
Edmonton, firmly in a playoff spot, has 28 more points available to them as they try to catch both the Jets and Toronto Maple Leafs in the North Division standings. Getting in a rhythm would go a long way for this group as they aim for just their second playoff berth and playoff series win in 15 years.