The Oilers are in Arizona, taking on the Coyotes on the 2nd night of a back-to-back after a tough loss at the hands of the Stars in Dallas last night.
The Oilers will start Mikko Koskinen, like they did October 21st in a 5-1 win against these Coyotes. Since then the Yotes have started to find their game, or at least some points in the standings, perhaps not coincidentally when Scott Wedgewood was claimed off waivers, ascending quickly to the top role in the crease.
The injuries are starting to pile up for the Oilers and the mood around pundits has cooled since their win in Boston, the apex of an early season high. Still, the team should have enough to keep piling up wins until some of their most paramount contributors return, and we’ve at least seen positive signs within the opportunities those injuries present.
Getting the foul taste of losing out of their mouths ASAP with a win tonight would be huge, especially given that the Pacific Division as a whole is looking stronger than most anticipated.
KEYS TO THE GAME
- Power Play. The Coyotes average over 13 penalty minutes per game, which should give the Oilers ample opportunity to win the game with special teams.
- Start on time. Koskinen takes a lot of flak for early goals, but the Oilers still managed to find themselves down 2 after the 1st period last night, mustering only 6 shots. Yes, the Coyotes aren’t known for their checking prowess like the Stars are, so it could be a higher scoring game, but it would no doubt help the psyche of the team as a whole to come out strong.
- Forecheck. With a lot of replacements on the Oilers blueline the Yotes would do well to pressure as many mistakes as they can. They’ll need opportunistic goals to keep pace. That being said, they can’t send too many checkers deep to focus on key 2.
- Rush defence. Allowing McDavid or Draisaitl to get speed going through the neutral zone is a dangerous proposition, so the Yotes will at least be attempting to replicate the tight coverage the Stars mustered for most of last night’s game.
Edmonton: Keith left last night’s game with an upper body injury, joining Nurse and Koekkoek as regulars that are out of the lineup. It sounds like there might be even more injuries tonight, so we’ll have to wait and see how the lines shake out.
Hyman — McDavid — Puljujarvi
RNH — Draisaitl — Yamamoto
Foegele — McLeod — Kassian
Perlini — Ryan — Turris
Russel — Bouchard
Broberg — Ceci
Lagesson — Barrie
Arizona: Schmaltz, Stralman, and Beagle are out day-to-day, while Ladd and Larsson are on the COVID list.
Keller — Hayton — Kessel
Crouse — Boyd — Galchenyuk
Roussel — Jenik — Eriksson
O’Brien — Dzingel — Fasching
Chychrun — Lyubushkin
Gostisbehere — Mayo
Dineen — Capobianco
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Edmonton: I try not to spend too much time talking about McDavid and Draisaitl here, because yes, they are always players to watch. However since their split Draisaitl has had more success on the scoresheet. McDavid’s 18 game point streak was snapped, but a new one is likely to begin again tonight. That being said, it would be nice to see Hyman and Puljujarvi start to click as a unit. Ryan McLeod had another goal last night, and although offence is probably secondary as it pertains to his current function, it is nice to see him rewarded for his recent defensive efforts.
Of course, Bouchard and Ceci play major roles at the best of times, but Tyson Barrie is likely to see more than his usual usage. The 3 of them will need a strong stretch of play over the next month or so, rising to the occasion before them.
Despite a minus 2 last night, Philip Broberg has continued to show encouraging play, an opinion shared by Coach Tippett as the young defender saw more than 18 minutes against Dallas. Depending on how the injury situation continues to unfold, Broberg at least has some time to try to win a regular spot. Again I’ll say it’s not a disappointment if he’s not NHL-top-4 ready at this moment, but if he were it would drastically raise the ceiling for this year’s Oilers.
Arizona: Things are looking pretty bleak in a variety of ways when it comes to the Coyotes, so fans will be looking for positive play from their young players, valuing the emergence of a core group or direction for the future more than wins this season. There is some good news as Barrett Hayton has started to show more flashes of the skills that saw him taken 5th overall in 2018. Finally entrusting him in an offensive role, between the Yotes’ best wingers, will at least help in this regard. It seems as though Arizona has had a hard time developing their top prospects into impact NHLers over the years, so signs of Hayton growing into that space would go a long way for both the lineup and the psyche of a team with an abundance of draft capital.
Best player and contract on the Coyotes is probably Jakob Chychrun. It’s true, things haven’t looked great for anyone on the Coyotes this season, but it’s worth wondering if he’d have a shot at making an Olympic team were his situation in the NHL better. Lyubushkin has been solid as his partner, while Gostisbehere has shown he still has some game left in the tank, even after passing through waivers last season.
With the Stars grabbing an early lead and checking well last night, Tippett started mixing and matching the lines pretty early and often. A lot of this was centred on getting McDavid going, as I mentioned that line has more to give than it has been recently, and involved putting Perlini on the line. I’ve seen enough Oilers fans talking about how they don’t like Tippett as a coach based on some of the 4th line roster decisions, or in this case putting a player with no goals on McDavid’s wing.
We’re all entitled to our own evaluations of the coaching but I’d say it’s important to have some perspective. The Tippet era is the most consistent regular season success the Oilers have had in at least a decade (let’s not forget this team was missing the postseason with McDavid and Draisaitl on the roster). If your questions are about the 4th line or depth players, you are in a good spot.
We’re all going to have our own visions of the ideal lineup, but it’s important to remember there is more than one way that things could work. When McDavid and Draisaitl started on the same line there was a lot of groaning about how it shouldn’t be that way, but in retrospect it seems like a smart way to get the pair going while opponents’ defensive structures are still settling. It’s easy and fun to be critical of coaching and management decisions, and every one of them will be let go eventually, but let’s say being distraught and firing the coach because Ryan or Turris are playing 8 minutes a night instead of Sceviour or Benson seems a bit short sighted. Be careful what you wish for.