Oilers’ 5-Game Road Trip: What to Watch For

The Edmonton Oilers start a five-game road trip starting in the Atlantic Division and working their way back through the Central Division before returning home for two games later next week. It’s not the easiest road trip, but it could also be a lot harder.

A Look at the Oilers’ Competition

They start with the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday against a team that has shown much improvement from last season and has gotten off to a respectable start. They are 6-5-2 on the season and have won two games in a row. The team is led by their leading scorer Tyler Bertuzzi, who they will be fortunate enough to have in the game since the Red Wings don’t have to travel to Canada for this matchup.

Next up on Thursday and Friday, the Oilers play a back-to-back against the Boston Bruins and Buffalo Sabres. It is their second back-to-back game of the season and they fared well in their first go-around in the desert, beating down the Arizona Coyotes and Vegas Golden Knights by a combined score of 10-4. Mikko Koskinen got the start in both of those games, so we will see if Mike Smith is healthy enough to take back some starts and give Koskinen a well-deserved rest. If not, the Oilers may have to put some trust in Stuart Skinner and play him on the back-end, as the Sabres are the weaker team.

Edmonton Oilers Celebrate
Edmonton Oilers: Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Jesse Puljujarvi, Darnell Nurse, Tyson Barrie
(Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)

Boston is off to a 5-4-0 start to the season and will be looking to get going in what’s set to be a highly-skilled bout between these teams. While the Sabres are banged up and have started to regress back to what was projected of them after a surprising start. They are 5-5-2 and have lost two straight as of now.

The Oilers then jump to the start of next week where the competition gets tougher. They battle the St. Louis Blues and the Winnipeg Jets on Monday and Wednesday to finish up the road trip. They will play in St. Louis first against a team that looks for real this year after getting swept in the first round last season. They are 7-2-1 and have been bowling over teams. This may prove to be the most difficult test for the Oilers thus far this season.

As for the Jets, they are finally healthy and their lineup depth looks scary, as they have tested out the combinations of Pierre-Luc Dubois and Kyle Connor, Nikolaj Ehlers separately, and then Mark Scheifele and Blake Wheeler together on a different line. This team is third in the Central Division with a record of 6-3-2 and it will be the first matchup between them and the Oilers since the Sweep in last year’s first round.

The Oilers have a perfect record of 3-0-0 on the road this season, and a minimum of three to four wins on this road trip should create a gap between them and the competition in the Pacific Division. Though a perfect road trip would be welcomed.

McDavid & Draisaitl Scoring Race

This will be something fans of the Oilers and the NHL will be watching throughout the season, as both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have done nothing short of break down every opponent and put up points at will. After 10 games, Draisaitl leads the NHL with 23 points, while McDavid is close behind with 22. The points race for the Art Ross Trophy isn’t the only thing to watch for, as both players are at the top of the league in goals as well.

Draisaitl already has two four-point performances this season and McDavid has a 10-game point streak to begin the season. Teams will be looking to stow the duo down, but that may be easier said than done. It will be interesting and fun to watch how many goals and points both of these players have after the next five games, and how they match up to the rest of the league.

Who will replace Devin Shore on the 4th line?

With the bad news of Devin Shore going down to an injury suffered in the game against the New York Rangers, the other depth forwards for the Oilers will get more of an opportunity to fight for playing time in the four to six-week absence. The team recalled Ryan McLeod since Kyle Turris was the only other player getting playing time on the fourth line who could play centre and Turris was playing well in his role on the right wing.

The lines earlier today looked something like this. Disregard the top-nine, as Shore hadn’t played higher than the fourth line this season. It makes sense that McLeod would immediately slot into the centre position, as he has been playing well in Bakersfield and they wouldn’t recall him just to have him sit on the sidelines. With Turris playing well as of late, it is an interesting decision to leave him out of the lineup tonight, as his confidence was just growing again. He should definitely get into action on this road trip, and I expect in the game against Boston unless Colton Sceviour plays very well.

Related: Oilers Have Options to Replace Shore on 4th Line

When Smith Returns, Does he Share the Net With Koskinen?

Smith has been practicing with the team and the Oilers had hoped he’d be ready last week against the Philadelphia Flyers. With the play of Koskinen, it has been the right decision not to rush the veteran back from injury and cause more harm than good. The goalie situation isn’t in a crisis, even after one bad game for Koskinen after he allowed five goals on 25 shots. Everyone has off games, and that was his first of the season in eight games.

Smith is joining the team on the road trip, and the Oilers are currently carrying three goaltenders. It may not be the best idea to throw Smith right back into action every other night. They should allow him to ease back into it since Koskinen has been doing just fine. It looks like Smith won’t dress in the first game of the road trip, as Skinner appears to be given the call to play his first game of the season. It is about time they give him a chance after what he showed in training camp and with Bakersfield in two games.

Will the Oilers Stay Hot?

Both the Oilers and the power play have been red hot since the first game of the season. The Oilers are 9-1-0 and the power play has scored a goal in every game this season. The power play is clicking at 50 percent, and by the way, they are working the puck around and scoring with ease, the power play could very well stay that high for a while.

Leon Draisaitl, Connor McDavid
Edmonton Oilers, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

We are looking at possibly the best power play the NHL has ever seen. More than just the names you are used to hearing have contributed to the power-play success as well, as seven different Oilers players have scored a power-play goal, and 10 have recorded at least one power-play point.

Realistically, the Oilers can extend their four-game winning streak to seven games and once they hit the Western Conference again, the difficulty will pick up. There has been no indication of this team slowing down or the intention to do so. With the offensive firepower and the solid play all-around, they seem almost unstoppable right now.

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