The Edmonton Oilers will look to avoid losing a third straight game when they visit the Anaheim Ducks tonight. It will be no easy task as the Ducks currently occupy second spot in the Western Conference.
That is one of the big storylines for the night. The other is the fact that it will be Justin Schultz’s first game in Anaheim after spurning them for free agency and the Oilers last summer. Schultz will no doubt be a little nervous and is unsure of how he’ll be received:
“I don’t know,” Schultz said. “We’ll see when game time comes. Whatever happens, it is what it is.”
Schultz has been excellent for the Oilers this season, and despite hitting a bit of the rookie wall, he has still put up good numbers with 20 points in 38 games for this season. He has also been a main catalyst for the power play and has shown poise beyond his years.
Even though the team he could’ve been playing for is in a playoff position, Schultz doesn’t regret his decision:
“It was just me having the option to be a free agent and choose where I wanted to play, and I saw an opportunity in Edmonton,” Schultz said. “I don’t regret making that decision.”
After winning five straight games and reaching a playoff position last week, the Oilers have fallen back again losing their last two contests. They currently sit 10th, four points behind 8th place Detroit.
The team has gone 5-4-1 in their last ten games, and that stretch has almost perfectly summed up the Oilers season. They have a five game winning streak where they look like they can beat anyone and play the up tempo, inspired hockey that fans have been expecting all year. However, that play is sustained only so long as that winning streak is bookended by losses where there looked like little motivation or passion in their play. Their last two games were losses to the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings where the Oilers were outscored by a combined 8-1 in the process.
If tonight isn’t a “must win” game, then it’s as close as it gets as the Oilers cannot afford to fall any further out of the playoff race than they already are. With just ten games left to play, the team needs to make up the four points they’re down and jump over three teams in the process.
Anaheim currently sits second with 57 points, trailing only the NHL leading Chicago Blackhawks in the west. They are coming off a shootout win over Los Angeles last night in the first of back to back games.
The top line for the Oilers of Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle will try and get back on track as they have been held pointless in the last two games after having combined for 32 points over the five game win streak.
This will be the first meeting of the season for the two teams. They will meet again in back to back nights late in the season in April to complete their season series.
GOALTENDERS: Jonas Hiller returned from injury to back up Viktor Fasth last night and will look to get the start tonight. Devan Dubnyk will once again be between the pipes for the Oilers.