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Game Preview 57.0: Edmonton Oilers at Tampa Bay Lightning (5pm MT, SNW) – Oilers Nation

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Injuries are part of hockey, and usually at one point in the season, every team in the NHL will endure some challenges due to injuries. Good teams find ways to overcome them, at least for short periods of time. Exceptional teams will be able to overcome key injuries for long periods of time. The defending Stanley Cup champions haven’t missed a beat despite being without the best goal scorer, Vladimir Tarasenko, all season. The Pittsburgh Penguins went 18-6-4 without Sidney Crosby.

If the timeline is accurate the Edmonton Oilers, luckily, won’t be without Connor McDavid for a long stretch, but they need to keep playing well despite his absence if they want to maintain their spot in the Pacific Division standings. The good news for them is their opposition tonight, Tampa Bay, also has some key players out of the lineup.

Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos are out tonight. So is their second line centre, Anthony Cirelli. The Lightning have a lot of depth, and great goaltending, and they should be able to survive a few games without half of their top six. But their offensive punch has taken a hit as those three have combined for 40% of their forwards’ goals this year.

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McDavid and James Neal, who is out with an ankle injury, have scored 30.4% of the goals by Oilers forwards. So simply on a percentage basis, the Oilers, even without McDavid, have more offensive punch, on paper, from their forwards tonight.

There are some interesting stats to look at between these two teams courtesy of Sportlogiq.

Tampa excels at creating scoring chances at even strength:

Tampa is first in shot attempts from the slot off the cycle. Oilers are 16th.
They are third in passes to the slot. Oilers are 21st.
They are third in EV shot attempts from the slot with 23.9%. Oilers are 26th at 20.1.
Tampa is fifth in NHL in shots on net from the slot. Oilers are 23rd.
They are fifth in second chance (rebound) shot attempts from the slot. Oilers are 30th.

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RELATED ARTICLE:
The Nation Roundup

Edmonton will need to be on their toes defensively tonight. Here is how they rate defensively in limiting scoring chances.

They are fifth in shots on net from the slot off the forecheck against. Tampa is 10th.
They are 11th in allowing shot attempts from the slot. Tampa is ninth.
They are 11th in shot attempts on net from the slot against. Tampa is 10th.
They are 27th in shot on net from the slot off the cycle against. Tampa is 7th.

Tampa is first at creating shot attempts against off the cycle, while the Oilers are 27th in allowing shot attempts off the cycle.

I’m no genius, but it would seem that is the area to watch tonight. Can the Oilers limit the Lightning’s chances off the cycle? They need to, or Mike Smith will need to stand on his head for the Oilers to skate out of Tampa Bay with a victory.

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Oilers

RNH-Draisaitl-Yamamoto
Archibald-Sheahan-Kassian
Gagner-Haas-Chiasson
Khaira-Cave-P.Russell

Klefbom-Larsson
Nurse-Bear
Jones-Benning

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Smith

Dave Tippett elects to stay with the same lineup from Tuesday. It makes sense. I think you will see Tyler Benson get a game on the weekend, but right now the only option to come out of the lineup for him is Patrick Russell. Jujhar Khaira kills penalties and that gives him an edge. It doesn’t mean he can’t come out, but the PK has been really good lately so I understand why the coach isn’t looking to make changes.

The Draisaitl line will need to be the offensive catalyst again.

Another thing to watch for the Oilers blueline at even strength. Here is how they rank in completed stretch passes this season (stats courtesy of Sportlogiq):

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RELATED ARTICLE:
Oilers Prospect Update: Jesse shines in Finland

Darnell Nurse: 105 in 1,122 EV minutes.
Ethan Bear: 103 in 1,064 EV min.
Kris Russell: 87 in 718 EV min.
Oscar Klefbom: 82 in 1,070 min.
Adam Larsson: 55 in 608 min.
Matt Benning: 44 in 400 min.
Caleb Jones: 42 in 377 min.

Lightning

Palat-Point-Johnson
Maroon-Paquette-Killhorn
Verhaeghe-Gourde-Joseph
Volkov-Stevens-Gaunce

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Hedman-Cernak
Sergachev-Shattenkirk
Schenn-Coburn

Vasilevskiy

With injuries to Stamkos, Kucherov and Cirelli the Lightning are down to 11 forwards. They might play Gaunce as a forward, or slot him in on defence. Edmonton actually has more goals and points in their forward lineup tonight than the Lightning do. Of course the Lightning have Vasilevskiy in goal and he is 17-0-2 in his last 19 starts with a sparkling .933Sv% and 1.97 GAA. The Oilers will need to play tighter defensively tonight than they did against the Blackhawks. It would seem unlikely this will be a high scoring affair, but you never know. The NHL can be very unpredictable at times.

Photoshop: Tom Kostiuk

GAME DAY PREDICTION: The Oilers are competitive, but lose 3-2 in a SO. With the SO loss, they are still 8-1-2 against Eastern teams on the road.

OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: Draisaitl’s line scores again at even strength.

NOT-SO-OBVIOUS GAME DAY PREDICTION: The fourth line combines for an unexpected goal.

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McDavid’s return puts Ken Holland under spotlight before deadline – Sportsnet.ca

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EDMONTON — The eyes averted from the general manager for a moment or two Thursday, when Connor McDavid executed the rare hockey “two-a-day,” skating alone at 9 a.m. and then again with the team at noon.

McDavid would not rule out playing Friday night against Minnesota — “You’ll have to ask the doctors about (a return date). We’re taking it day by day.” — and will be leaving with the team on Saturday for a three-game trip that opens Sunday in Los Angeles.

We’re betting he plays Sunday at the latest, and McDavid’s imminent return coupled with Monday’s trade deadline has veteran GM Ken Holland under the spotlight here in Edmonton — no different than in any hockey town on the map.

“The day I took the job (back in May) I told everybody at the press conference that I hoped on March 1 that we’re playing important games, competing for a playoff spot,” Holland said on Thursday. “We’re probably a little bit above that, but just a little bit. You can say we’re first place in the division, but we’re also five points from being out.

“How has it affected my thinking? I was a seller in Detroit the last three years, and I was a buyer at the deadline for many years. Would I like to do something? Yeah, you like to do something to pitch in.”

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Holland has a dressing room full of players who have come together to win games despite the fact there was $30-million worth of players out of the lineup that lost 2-1 in overtime to the Boston Bruins on Wednesday. They’re looking at their GM to give them another bullet in a Pacific Division that has never been more wide open than it is today.

In the coach’s office sits Dave Tippett, who has done a masterful job creating an all-in atmosphere where the Oilers can now beat you with their stars, or by outworking the opponents with a solid bottom six, a sturdy D-corps and excellent goaltending.

And the owner of a team that has enjoyed one playoff run in the past 13 seasons likely wouldn’t mind a playoff gate or two. All of that is running through the mind of Holland, who is also responsible for building something here that can past — which means not dealing away picks and prospects.

Especially a first-round pick.

“Certainly for a rental,” he said. “I’m not going to spend a first-round pick on a rental.”

The Franchise has missed just five games, and his team went 3-1-1, dropping points only against Tampa and Boston. Top defenceman Oscar Klefbom is on the shelf for another two to three weeks with a shoulder issue. The Oilers were in first place in the Pacific when they awoke Thursday, and have watched Vancouver add Tyler Toffoli, Vegas add Alec Martinez, Arizona add Taylor Hall earlier in the season, and the Calgary Flames free up a load of cap space when they sent Michael Frolik to Buffalo.

Does that make Holland’s trigger finger a little more itchy?

“I did that in my early years as a manager, (when) there was us, Dallas and Colorado,” he said. “Sometimes it helps, quite often it doesn’t help. Today I worry more about our team. I can’t manage against what other teams are doing. I have to factor in the prices, what am I looking for, what’s going to make us deeper and better and at what cost.”

As we wrote yesterday in our deadline preview, a left winger for McDavid is what we believe to be the biggest priority in Edmonton, though a depth centre wouldn’t hurt either.

How does Holland prioritize those needs?

“That’s fantasy hockey,” was his retort. “It depends what’s available, what’s the cost and it’s not like there’s a whole bunch of wingers and a whole bunch of offensive centreman or defensive centres. What’s the cost?

“I’m trying to weigh that in my thought process from when I was hired to a five-year deal. You have to draft and develop people. Some of the younger people have had a greater impact way quicker than I thought. So, I’m trying to decide over the next three or four days how active I’ll be.

“Yeah, I would like to pitch in because the guys in that locker room have worked extremely hard, players and coaching staff, to put us in this position. But I also have to factor in the cost and I would not trade a first-round pick for a rental.”

As for Jesse Puljujarvi, their wayward former No. 1 pick currently playing in Finland, Holland said this: “I haven’t really shopped him and nobody’s really asked.”

Stay tuned. As you can see, there are plenty of wheels in motion in Edmonton these days.

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ATP Marseille: Felix Auger-Aliassime Saves 3 MP, Beats Pierre-Hugues Herbert – ATP Tour

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#NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime saved three match points on Thursday, battling through a slew of tweeners and screaming forehands to overcome Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Herbert 6-0, 6-7(6), 7-6(9) in a two-hour, 40-minute thriller at the Open 13 Provence that the players nor fans watching will soon forget.

The seventh seed steadied himself well after letting slip one match point in the second-set tie-break, eventually triumphing on his sixth match point to reach the quarter-finals in Marseille. Auger-Aliassime, who lost to Herbert in straight sets two weeks ago in Montpellier, struck 16 aces and won 85 per cent of his first-serve points as he continues his pursuit of a maiden ATP Tour title.

The 19-year-old Canadian has now saved multiple match points in his first two matches at this indoor ATP 250 event, erasing two of them in his first-round victory against Italian Stefano Travaglia. Auger-Aliassime will next play Belarusian Egor Gerasimov, who upset third seed David Goffin.

For a moment, it seemed destiny was on Herbert’s side. The Frenchman not only hit a tweener lob on set point in the second set to force a decider, but he struck another clutch tweener to help escape pressure on serve deep in the third set.

Then at 6/6 in the ensuing tie-break, Auger-Aliassime played a perfect point and crushed an overhead into the open court. But on the full stretch, Herbert blasted a forehand pass down the line that the diving Canadian couldn’t handle, giving him a match point on his own serve. The Frenchman was unable to muster the courageous tennis he played under pressure during the rest of the match, pushing a backhand into the net.

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On the other two match points Auger-Aliassime faced — at 5/6 and 7/8 in the same tie-break — the teen showed no fear, dictating with his forehand and then blasting an unreturned serve down the T. Felix finished off his victory with an ace out wide, letting out a roar of “Allez!”

It is a key week for the Canadian, who last year reached his first ATP Tour final in Rio de Janeiro as the World No. 104. He has since reached three additional tour-level championship matches, including one last week in Rotterdam (0-4).

Auger-Aliassime’s next opponent, Gerasimov, is a qualifier who ousted Goffin 6-4, 7-6(5). Goffin battled hard, getting back on serve in the second set after the Belarusian served for the match. 

But the in-form World No. 72 played too well from the baseline, triumphing after one hour and 33 minutes behind three breaks of serve. Gerasimov reached his first ATP Tour final earlier this year in Pune.

Did You Know?
With Denis Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil also into the last eight in Marseille, it is the first time three Canadians have reached the quarter-finals in an ATP Tour event since 1990 Rio de Janeiro where Martin Laurendeau (QF), Andrew Sznajder (Finalist) and Martin Wostenholme (SF) did it.

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2021 Scotties tickets on sale on Friday – Tbnewswatch.com

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THUNDER BAY – As Krista McCarville and company inch their way toward a spot in the championship round at the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Heats, tickets for the 2021 event in Thunder Bay are about to go on sale.

Curling Canada on Wednesday announced the first 2,000 ticket packages will be available through a pre-sale, for $395 plus fees, starting on Friday morning at 10 a.m.

A limited number of VIP tickets, priced at $429, will also be up for grabs.

Diane Imrie, vice-chair of the 2021 Scotties Tournament of Hearts said the announcement suddenly makes things real.

“My phone has been blowing up, my email has been blowing up because pre-sale tickets went on sale today,” said Imrie. “Curling Canada sent out the notification to people and people are buying their tickets and are getting ready for the 2021 Scotties.

“And it’s perfect timing because Krista is doing great out in Moose Jaw, so we’re hoping she’ll do exactly the same next year here in Thunder Bay.”

For now, only full week packages will be made available.

A block of weekend single-day tickets are expected to be put on sale in October.

“These are full-event packages right now and it’s a great deal, if you think about all those games you get to see for a great price,” Imrie said, “It’s tickets for everything.”

Kent Maarup, vice-chair facilities for next year’s event, said it’s a great day for curling.

He cautioned the public not to wait too long, because the next block of tickets won’t be nearly as large is this one.

“We have to keep so many for media and also for families and everybody else. So they hold off a good 500 tickets just for that,” Maarup said.

Tickets will be available online and at the Fort William Gardens box office as well. Tickets can also be ordered by phone at 625-2929. Tickets prices are subject to standard facility and ticket service fees.

Imrie said she expects information on volunteers will be made public in the coming weeks, but encouraged anyone interested to sign up as soon as possible at that time as the opportunities will be open to curling fans across the country.

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