Friends, our journey reaches midway this evening in California. Game 41 is in the city of angels, followed quickly by No. 42 in the OC (“California here we come”) and then upstate to San Jose. These Edmonton Oilers are 5-6-1 so far against the Pacific, after going 16-11-0 one year ago. That record against the Pacific has room to grow.
The big story for tonight: Alex Chiasson returns. He’ll begin (based on yesterday’s practice) on the No. 2 line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. It’s also possible Kris Russell plays, perhaps Ken Hitchcock dresses seven defensemen in an effort to make sure he has cover at the position.
This is the good stuff. It’s impossible to undersell the importance of tonight’s game, and the one tomorrow, even the game in San Jose. The proverbial ‘four pointer’ in trey formation. It’s time to climb the mountain.
The Athletic Edmonton is going to bring it all season long. Proud to be part of a lineup that is ready to cover the coming year. Outstanding coverage from a large group, including Daniel Nugent-Bowman and Jonathan Willis, Lowetide, Minnia Feng and Pat McLean. If you haven’t subscribed yet, now’s your chance. Outstanding offer is here.
- New Daniel Nugent-Bowman: From 2 to 98, Oilers share the stories behind their jersey numbers.
- New Jonathan Willis: Edmonton’s collection of prospect defencemen gives the team options now, in the future and in trade talks
- New Jonathan Willis: With Mikko Koskinen and Cam Talbot bound for free agency, what is the Oilers goaltending plan?
- New Lowetide: What could the Oilers acquire in a Jesse Puljujarvi trade?
- New Jonathan Willis: The Edmonton Oilers are one good summer away from being competitive.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 9 prospect Winter 2018: Joel Persson.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 8 prospect Winter 2018: Kirill Maksimov.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 7 prospect Winter 2018: Caleb Jones.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 6 Prospect winter 2018: Cooper Marody.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 5 Prospect winter 2018: Ethan Bear.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 4 Prospect winter 2018: Ryan McLeod.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 3 Prospect winter 2018: Tyler Benson.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 2 Prospect winter 2018: Kailer Yamamoto.
- Lowetide: Oilers No. 1 Prospect winter 2018: Evan Bouchard.
OILERS AFTER 41
- Oilers in 2015: 17-21-3, 37 points; goal differential -21
- Oilers in 2016: 21-13-7, 49 points; goal differential +6
- Oilers in 2017: 18-20-3, 39 points; goal differential -17
- Oilers in 2018: 19-18-3, 41 points; goal differential -6
This California trip is beyond important, and probably one of the reasons Peter Chiarelli decided to add two defensemen a week ago. If he knew Russell was uncertain for these games, grabbing two blue makes more sense. I’d still play Gravel over Manning but Ken Hitchcock seems pleased with the additions.
OILERS IN JANUARY
- Oilers in January 2016: 2-0-0, four points; goal differential +1
- Oilers in January 2017: 1-1-0, two points; goal differential -1
- Oilers in January 2018: 1-1-0, two points; goal differential -4
- Oilers in January 2019: 1-0-0, two points; goal differential +1
WHAT TO EXPECT IN JANUARY
- On the road to: Arizona, Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose (Expected 2-2-0) (Actual 1-0-0)
- At home to: Florida, Arizona, Buffalo (Expected 1-1-1) (Actual 0-0-0)
- On the road to: Vancouver (Expected 0-1-0) (Actual 0-0-0)
- At home to: Calgary, Carolina, Detroit (Expected 1-1-1) (Actual 0-0-0)
- Overall expected result: 4-5-2, 10 points in 11 games
- Current results: 1-0-0, two points in one game
I have tonight as a win, followed by two losses to round out the California trip. The Pacific Division is winning games now, Edmonton is in danger of getting left behind. A big weekend begins tonight.
PROJECTED OILERS LINEUP
It looks like Kassian is going to stay, at least to start the game. Hitchcock likes having a big man on the McDavid-Draisaitl line: “They’ve got to have a player that can help them there. Whether it’s Kass or Chiasson we’ll see how the games go but now we’ve got two big bodies that can grind and help them hold onto it and that’s exactly what happened in the game in Arizona.” He also likes Spooner’s play more recently, we may see the veteran draw in.
There are several Oilers who will play tonight who haven’t scored in exactly one forever. If, say, Tobias Rieder scores tonight, do we pass out or assume we blacked out?
It seems the unique stories coming out of Bakersfield are happening with greater frequency. The team had 51 shots (in a loss) last night, I don’t recall the last time an Oilers’ affiliate managed 50+. The game featured rookie pros Tyler Vesel, Tyler Benson, Logan Day, Cooper Marody, Cameron Hebig, William Lagesson and Dylan Wells—seven newcomers who are playing big minutes and having success. Music!
Benson is unusual, he’s leading the team in points and is No. 8 among AHL rookies in the category. Among players aged 20, he ranks No. 3 (behind Drake Batherson and Adam Mascherin).
In a recent conversation with Mike Griffith at Bakersfield.com, coach Jay Woodcroft said “I think he’s taken a step with his skating this year. His 200-foot game has really come along, he’s one of our best backchecking forwards on our team, he strips pucks and creates turnovers. He’s been all over the chance sheet so we knew it was just a matter of time of him converting.”
Griffith has a post-game article with quotes from Woodcroft here.
I haven’t written much on the World Juniors, the Oilers picked the Christmas period to make a bunch of trades and have a lot of media avails. However, this play by Phil Kemp is one for the ages and I thought it might be a good time to list the boxcars, et cetera for the three Oilers prospects in the tournament.
- Evan Bouchard 5, 0-3-3, 18:46, he was No. 2 in TOI for Canada blue
- Dmitri Samorukov 6, 1-3-4, 22:44, led Russian blue in TOI
- Phil Kemp 6, 0-1-1, 15:59, No. 5 in TOI for USA defense