The Edmonton Oilers will play for their playoff lives on Friday afternoon as they take on the Chicago Blackhawks in an elimination game four. The Oilers blew a late lead and fell 4-3 on Wednesday night and should they lose Friday, their only consolation prize will be entering Monday’s lottery for the Alexis Lafreniere sweepstakes. It’s clearly not what the club would like to see happen.
So, what are the key stories heading into Game 4? There’s news on Tyler Ennis, Mikko Koskinen, the officiating and more.
Koskinen vs. Smith in Goal
Mikko Koskinen gets the start for the Oilers, while Corey Crawford gets the nod for the Blackhawks. Koskinen has played in both Games 2 and 3 and that seems to be the direction head coach Dave Tippett will take moving forward.
If the Oilers lose, who plays next won’t matter. If Edmonton wins, it’s logical to assume Tippett will go with the hot hand. The only reason Smith will see the net in this series will be a mid-game pull to get the Oilers back in should the Blackhawks take an early lead.
As for Smith’s long-term run with the Oilers, win or lose, he may have played his last game as an Oilers goaltender. He has a history with Tippett, but the amount of money the Oilers will have available for a back-up netminder will be limited.
Ennis Out Indefinitely
Oilers forward Tyler Ennis is out indefinitely with a lower leg injury he suffered in Game 3. Jason Gregor of TSN 1260 reports that he’s heard it could be a lower leg fracture, but what seems clear is that Ennis won’t be back for the series.
There were a number of options to take Ennis’ place in the lineup, including Gaëtan Haas, Patrick Russell, Joakim Nygard, Tyler Benson, Ryan McLeod or Cooper Marody. Just before game time, it was revealed Haas would get the nod.
Other Lineup News
In other injury news, Caleb Jones was in again for Adam Larsson. It’s still not clear what is ailing the defenseman.
In the bottom six, there has been some minor shuffling. Andreas Athanasiou has been moved to the second line left wing spot alongside Leon Draisaitl and Kailer Yamamoto.
The Officiating Needs to Be Less of a Factor
One of the stories of Game 3 was how many ticky-tack calls the officials decided to make during the game. There were questionable calls on both sides but for the Oilers, they made trip after trip to the box and couldn’t get into a rhythm.
It made it nearly impossible for the Oilers to roll all four lines and that created a situation where penalty killers were taxed and players like Zack Kassian and Andreas Athanasiou barely saw time to make a difference.
The biggest argument during that game was that the officials wanted to dictate the game and not the other way around. Either way, Edmonton will need to watch the penalties they take and be more disciplined. “There were some (penalties) that I didn’t think were very good calls but there were some that were just poor plays on our part,” Tippett said of his club’s discipline.
Oilers 50/50 A Mess
Not related to the on-ice product, the Oilers 50/50, which set a world record for tickets sold and prize money given out, has been nothing short of a disaster since.
In Game 3, the pot got to more than $5 million but the charity capped who could buy tickets because they couldn’t handle the traffic. . In Game 4, the Oilers Community Foundation decided to run with 2.5 times more tickets available than previous raffles and the system crashed. They tweeted just hours before game time:
We are actively working with our technology service provider Ascend to reduce wait times. Traffic remains at extremely high levels. We apologize to those trying to buy tickets & will update you as soon as we can. Purchased tickets are valid & active for today’s draw.
Amazingly, more fans seem to care about the result of that draw than the actual game itself.
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Jim Parsons is a senior THW freelance writer, part-time journalist and audio/video host who lives, eats, sleeps and breathes NHL news and rumors, while also writing features on the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been a trusted source for five-plus years at The Hockey Writers, but more than that, he’s on a mission to keep readers up to date with the latest NHL rumors and trade talk. Jim is a daily must for readers who want to be “in the know.”