Part of the mis-perception that the Oilers rough December performance created was that this club is on the outside looking in yet again.
Problem is…the numbers as they sit today simply don’t support that.
Not only are the Oilers in a wild-card position going into action versus Buffalo tonight, they are set up reasonably well to end up in the playoffs come April. How’s that? Look at the composition of the remaining schedule.
Right now, it is projected that the 8th and final playoff position in the Western Conference will require a cut at 90 points.
The Oilers have 40 games left to play between now and then. 22 of those 40 games are against clubs that are below the cut-line, be they Eastern or Western Conference teams. Said another way: Clubs in a worse position than the Oilers are at this time. Admittedly it won’t change that way as teams below the cut will climb above and vice-versa. But this is a snapshot in time. And if the Oilers only beat the opponents below the cut (and lost all the 18 again those above) they would end up at 90 points (46 in the bank plus the 44 projected). That’s post-season territory.
This view, I submit, is also the conservative one. It doesn’t suppose that the club will play above its head. It doesn’t take for granted that a better paced schedule in January will change the club’s ability win. It also doesn’t assume a single Bettman point.
It is strictly “beat the teams you should beat, and you’ll sneak in”.
Fair. I think so.
Edmonton Oilers Projected Lines & Pairings
Now down to the biggest news of the day…that being the fact that Oscar Klefbom (injured in the Rangers game) was on the ice this morning for the pre-game skate. He had taken a puck in the side of his foot and did not return. Given his past injury record we were quite rightly holding our collective breath. Well…Exhale. And Mike Smith (7-9-2, 3.12 GAA, .893 SV%) gets a chance to re-set after a slide that dates back to his spectacular start versus the Penguins.
Here’s what we believe we will see…
NEAL – McDAVID – KASSIAN
DRAISAITL – NUGENT-HOPKINS – YAMAMOTO
NYGARD – HAAS – CHIASSON
KHAIRA – SHEAHAN – ARCHIBALD
LAGESSON – LARSSON
KLEFBOM – BEAR
NURSE – RUSSELL
SCRATCHES – Koskinen (back-up), Gagner, Jones, P. Russell, Benning (IR).
OILERS: Tonight, kicks off a 5-game road trip for Edmonton. Last time head to head Buffalo won 3-2 in O/T (December 8th). Special teams have been a strength this season. The Oilers have the best power play in the league entering tonight (39/129 = 30.2%). Their PK is 5th at 83.3%). Connor McDavid (64) and Leon Draisaitl (62) remain the top 1-2 scorers in the NHL. James Neal and Zack Kassian are tied for 3rd with 27. Of the Oilers Top 5 scorers the only player whose +/- is above Even this season is Kassian (+4).
SABRES: 5-4-1 in their last 10. If Buffalo were to win tonight, they would sweep the season series with the Oilers for the 3rd time in 4 seasons. Jack Eichel is having a career year but has always played well versus Edmonton (5-5-10 in 8GP). And he is fire at home (18-14-32 in 19 GP). newcomer Victor Olofsson is the NHL leader in rookie goals (16) and points (34). F Evan Rodrigues has requested a trade. LW Dalton Smith was placed on waivers this morning.
The game starts at 5pm MST.
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