Season after season, the Edmonton Oilers were seemingly basement dwellers in the NHL that got lucky exactly one time a season: when the draft lottery drawing occurred.
After years of stockpiling youth, the Oilers are finally starting to be a playoff threat like many had predicted the last two seasons. They’ve been on a bit of a skid lately, however. Their recent 1-2-1 home stand, combined with the Calgary Flames’ red hot 10-game win streak, has bumped them back to the first Wild Card position.
That means they’ll be desperate for points tonight. Head coach Todd McLellan knows Dallas isn’t an easy win, though. “Dallas is an offensive time bomb,” he said. “They have the ability to explode at any point and score a ton of goals, so we’ll have our hands full with that.”
One thing that is guaranteed in matchups versus the Stars this season is a terrible penalty kill. They’re dead last in the league when down a man, which hasn’t helped their goals against total (in which they’re tied for dead last.)
With the Stars sitting 13 points behind the St. Louis Blues now, the Stars have a less than .01% chance at a playoff position, which basically means they don’t have more to play for the rest of the season than NHL draft position.
What they can do, though, is play the role of spoiler like many a team had done to Dallas in years past in which they needed just one win to make the playoffs. Now they can play to spoil someone else’s season. It’s at least one kind of motivation for players while they play out the string.
The Oilers lineup is expected to be something like this:
Patrick Maroon - Connor McDavid - Leon Draisaitl
Milan Lucic - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle
Benoit Pouliot - David Desharnais - Zack Kassian
Matt Hendricks - Mark Letestu - Iiro Pakarinen
Oscar Klefbom - Adam Larsson
Andrej Sekera - Matthew Benning
Darnell Nurse - Kris Russell
Cam Talbot is likely to start in net with Laurent Brossoit as his backup.
Dallas will likely continue with a similar lineup to last game, though Remi Elie’s play may have earned him a look in the top six. It’s a good time to evaluate what the Stars have for next season and what holes they might be able to fill via internal AHL graduates and what they’ll need to find in free agency or trade.
ODDS & ENDS
Reports of college free agent signings are starting to come out. Elliotte Friedman included in his 30 Thoughts column that Dallas was the most aggressive pursuer of Gavin Bayreuther, a free agent defenseman out of St. Lawrence University. Scouting reports peg him as a good skater, transitional blueliner that does good amount of damage on the power play.
He’s also a left handed defensemen, and could be a perfect fit for a balanced offense that has John Klingberg and Julius Honka as the main cogs next season. Transitional play has been a problem for Dallas this season with the losses of guys like Alex Goligoski and Jason Demers, so Bayreuther would be a great signing to take a chance on.