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BLOG: Oilers assess their standing at American Thanksgiving

"Where we are at in the standings is a bar we've set for now. It'll be difficult, going forward, to stay there," said goaltender Mike Smith

by Paul Gazzola /

EDMONTON, AB - It's that time of year again.

That date in the calendar when our neighbours to the south give thanks for their blessings on American Thanksgiving. 

It also happens to be the juncture of the schedule where prognosticators look at the current National Hockey League team rankings to gain an idea of who will be playing hockey past the regular season.

Oil Country has lots to celebrate on this edition of America's national holiday, given the Oilers placement thus far in 2019-20. 

Edmonton leads the Pacific Division with a 16-8-3 record and 35 points. The club is also fourth in the League overall, wedged between the Stanley Cup-winning St. Louis Blues and blazing New York Islanders.

But in the Oilers dressing room, lots of sacrifices are still to be made.

Video: RAW | Josh Archibald 11.28.19

"It's always a stat that's floating around this time of year," Josh Archibald said Thursday following practice. 

"I think for us, we just got to keep our head level-headed. You just can't look too far forward. That's the ultimate goal: to make the playoffs and go as far as possible but we're just looking forward to our next game against Van here at home."

The math says roughly 75 percent of teams in the post-season picture at American Thanksgiving secure a berth. Goaltender Mike Smith admitted it can be used as an indicator but remained modest, understanding lots can happen over the remaining 55 games.

"I don't think it means much," Smith, who is 7-6-1 in '19-20 with a .911 save percentage and 2.66 goals-against average, said.  

"Where we are at in the standings is a bar we've set for now. It'll be difficult, going forward, to stay there. Every team now is looking at the standings, seeing where teams are and where they need to be."

Video: RAW | Leon Draisaitl 11.28.19

The keeper also says that having a good record at this point can cause the opposition to put a target on your back.

"Teams are coming in going, 'They're in first place, we better be ready to play.'" 

The 2018-19 St. Louis Blues were 7-10-3 during last year's American Thanksgiving, which fell the same week they replaced coach Mike Yeo with Craig Berube. The club went on to win the Stanley Cup despite being in the bottom of the League at one point.

"It just goes to that show on any given night, any team can win," Archibald said. "When you get a hot goaltender and get a hot team that's scoring goals, anything is possible."

Lots of shuffling will transpire throughout '19-20, but one thing is certain for Smith.

"It's set us up for an exciting season," he said. "That being said, there's a lot of hockey left."

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