Edmonton Oilers to take on grueling nine-game road trip
The Edmonton Oilers closed out a five-game home stand on Saturday with a 3-2 shootout victory over the Phoenix Coyotes, and will now aim to make a push in the standings on what will be a difficult nine-game road trip.
The 17-day road trip opened on Monday night in Chicago as the Oilers took on the Blackhawks, who have yet to be defeated in regulation this season, and while Taylor Hall was absent due to a suspension he received for a knee-on-knee collision with Cal Clutterbuck in the Oilers 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild last Thursday, he knows how important it is to capitalize on opportunities now.
“If we don't start winning games now, we're going to put ourselves in a real hard spot come the end of the year. We don't want to be that team that has to win nine out of 13 to get into the playoffs, that's going to be really hard against the teams that we play on a regular basis,” Hall said after last Thursday's morning skate. “I think everyone in this room realizes that we can make the playoffs. It's not like the past years . . . This is a group that can do it, we just have to put it together for a few games in a row.”
Oilers forward Ryan Smyth pointed out that the mentality in the Edmonton locker room has changed since last year, and said the young group seems to be caring more about their performance.
“We got off to a really good start last year, and then we just fell right off. I think there's a little bit more emotion and care after losses (this year), and when that happens, not that it didn't last year, but it didn't seem as much last year compared to now,” Smyth said after last Thursday's morning skate. “That means it's a sign that we want to win, we want to be better, we want to compete and give ourselves an opportunity to make the playoffs.”
Smyth celebrated his 37th birthday by scoring the Oilers lone goal in Thursday's loss to the Wild, and noted that being the veteran on a team ripe with young talent has provided him with a number of different responsibilities and opportunities.
“It's a different role than I've taken in previous years, but by and large it's fun being around these kids. It's exciting to watch on a daily basis,” Smyth said. “Hopefully they can learn some stuff from the older guys, and we learn every day as far as the older guys from the kids. Their skill, their speed, their excitement, it rubs off and hopefully it's a two-way street.”
Oilers leading scorer Sam Gagner pointed to lack of consistency on the ice as an area that needs immediate improvement if the Oilers hope to make a push in the standings, as the team has had a hard time stringing together wins in this shortened season.
“We're just trying to build some consistency in our game. We know what works for us, and what makes us successful and I think it's just a matter of continuing to do that and being patient with it. These games are important for us coming up here,” Gagner said, adding that the Oilers will need to fight hard for the bounces on this road trip.
“You earn your breaks in this league and it's about getting to the net and creating chances for ourselves. I think if we continue to do that and continue to get pucks and traffic to the net, we're going to get our fair share of bounces. That's something we've got to work on every night.”
As of Monday morning, the Oilers sit 4th in the Northwest Division and 13th in the Western Conference with 17 points, however only two points currently separate the team from seventh place in the west.
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