Oilers Look to Secure Playoff Spot in Final Stretch

After a six-day break, the Edmonton Oilers look to kick start their final push into the playoffs by playing the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday night, after their game on Friday was postponed for a later date. The orange and blue have officially completed three-quarters of their season by playing 42 games and will look to finish it off by playing 14 games in 27 days, not overly taxing before embarking on a potential playoff push. Five of their remaining 14 games will be played against the Vancouver Canucks, who are just recovering from a shocking outbreak of COVID 19 on their roster. With the Canucks getting very little practice time before their game, the Oilers must make the most of their opportunity and press their opponent early, looking to jump on a rusty Canucks squad.

Connor McDavid,Mikko Koskinen
Edmonton Oilers captain Connor McDavid and goaltender Mikko Koskinen will have to be at their best as they try and lock down a playoff spot. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Seven of their next 14 games will take place against Montreal Canadiens and Jets, the two teams closest to them in the standings. Those games will possibly have playoff implications and will likely decide who gets home-ice advantage in the first round. The Oilers have been strong at Rogers Place as of late, winning their past seven games in a row at the Ice District.

Nugent-Hopkins Remains Out

Oilers’ center Ryan Nugent Hopkins was unable to skate with the team on Tuesday and Wednesday, skating by himself before practice on both days. Oilers’ head coach Dave Tippett said that Nugent Hopkins would be re-evaluated to see if he can join the team for Thursday’s practice. Originally, RNH was expected to return against the Jets on Saturday, so don’t be surprised if he’s out for Friday’s game.

The Oilers may not want to risk Nugent Hopkins re-injuring himself for a more extended period of time since he is such a valuable player for them, being used in the top-six, on the power play, and the penalty kill.

Larsson Looks at Trade Deadline Positively

After the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline was officially over, many Oiler fans were frustrated at the lack of deals from general manager Ken Holland. His only trade was to acquire defenseman Dmitry Kulikov from the New Jersey Devils. Oilers’ defenseman Adam Larsson had a more positive outlook saying, “it shows they believe in us, and that’s a good sign. We have a big belief in this group and in this locker room. We’re feeling good, I feel good about the home stretch and about the team.”

Edmonton Oilers Adam Larsson
Edmonton Oilers’ Adam Larsson (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson)

Larsson and the Oilers will also get a boost on defence with the incoming return of Slater Koekkoek, who returned to the ice on Tuesday, taking shots by himself before practice. Koekkoek was initially announced out for the regular season after suffering a broken collarbone but is ahead of schedule and may return to the lineup before the regular season ends.

Could Reinforcements Be Coming?

With the outstanding play of Bakersfield’s top line of Tyler Benson, Cooper Marody, and Ryan McLeod, there have been rumors that they could be called up to solidify the Oilers’ bottom six. Marody, Benson, and McLeod are currently second, fourth, and seventh in AHL scoring, while the Condors are currently second in their division with a 15-9-1 record. When asked about the potential recall of the “Big 3,” Ken Holland said, “they’re in good spots, playing 20-22 minutes a night; that’s not happening here, if you don’t play special teams, it’s hard to play more than 10 minutes max.”

Although the play of those players has been encouraging, Holland is right. Development takes priority in this case, especially if he thinks they won’t play more than 10 minutes a night. The only way I could see them getting recalled is if Bakersfield falls out of a playoff spot before the season ends. Otherwise, Oilers’ management will want to have them in the AHL, helping Bakersfield in their playoff run.

Although the “Big 3” call-up is unlikely, the Oilers may get an upgrade at forward if Dylan Holloway decides to sign with the team. He’s currently recovering from a broken thumb which he suffered in the NCAA playoffs.

Holland has said that he has spoken to Holloway’s agent and wants him to sign, but it will be his decision on what he wants to do. Holland also mentioned that if he were to sign, he’d be placed in a top-nine role with the team. Signing Holloway would be almost like an extra deadline acquisition for the Oilers. He brings so much to the table, such as a heavy forecheck, responsible penalty killing, and consistent point production. Although it may take a few games for him to get up to NHL speed, he’d be a definite boost over some of the other Oilers in the top-nine and would gain valuable experience for next year’s season.

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