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FEATURE: Season in segments

Reducing goals against was once again an emphasis for the Oilers at Thursday's team meeting evaluating the end of their third 10-game segment of the season

by Jamie Umbach /

EDMONTON, AB - It would've been easy for Head Coach Dave Tippett to roll his team out for a full practice on Thursday after last night's 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators.

But a season of 82 games and beyond needs to be managed.

"There's a method to the madness," the bench boss said. "I don't like skating when we play every second day. We want to have one full practice between games, not two full practices."

After putting in a full practice prior to Wednesday's contest at the morning skate, the plan to keep the majority of players off the ice on Thursday was one part of a week-long plan developed by Tippett with the vast amount of resources at his disposal in the organization.

The Oilers will skate at full power Friday morning ahead of an evening meetup with the Los Angeles Kings before doing it again on Saturday due to an earlier puck drop than usual on Sunday against the Buffalo Sabres.

"Some of the sports science stuff goes into it to see where we're at," Tippett said of evaluating his team to build a schedule. "There's different readings that we get - physical and mental fatigue levels - on where the group is at. So we monitor all that stuff."

"Usually the coaches sit down and we'll run it by a few guys. In the meeting this morning, we talked about some of the stuff we want to accomplish and this is the way we're going to do it."

Video: RAW | Dave Tippett 12.05.19

The scheduling decision allowed the Oilers a chance to hold a 30-game evaluation at their morning meeting between the players and coaching staff, with Wednesday's defeat also representing the final game of the third 10-game segment for the club as a number that's become measuring stick in the locker room this season.

"Every coach kind of breaks things down into segments," forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. "Some coaches like five games, 10 games and whatnot. We've kind of done it every 10 games here, so it might be a little bit similar to the things we've done in the past. But as far as Tippett goes, he's detail-oriented. We look at it, we discuss it, but then we kind of move on from it with that in our mind."

Discussions at the team meeting revolved around reducing goals against, much like it did pre-season from Tippett.

"We have to bring it back down to where we know they can be and where they should be, and these last 10 games we've still been over .500," forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. "We can take the positive out of that, but the goals against were a little too high. As a group we know that, and we'll work to bring that back down."

Video: OILERS TODAY | Injury Updates 12.05.19

The Oilers are 5-4-1 in their last 10 games and have allowed 34 goals - a number that's crept up as the season's progressed from 24 in the opening 10-game segment and 30 in the middle grouping. 

"I think we've given up a little too many Grade-A chances, and I think it's showing with our goals against going up," forward Zack Kassian said. "Collectively as a group, if we want to be a playoff team and continue on the path we are, we have to cut that number down like we did in the first 10 games." 

Because from here, games are only going to get more difficult as the Christmas approaches and the room for error becomes smaller and smaller.

"I think it's a matter of getting more consistent," Kassian said. "That's no secret. Especially after Christmas, the game locks down. The league locks down. It's tougher to get chances, it's tougher to get wins, so if we want to continue on the path we're on we're going to have to clean up a few things. We addressed those today and and now we move forward."

 Video: RAW | Zack Kassian 12.05.19

As it was with Tippett's preaching in the pre-season, the willingness to work and lower that number in the locker room is a sentiment that's shared by every individual for the team's collective gain. 

"The good thing with this year's team is that we've been very open to change, and everyone's eager to get better and eager to learn," Kassian continued. "We had a good meeting today, and the positive thing is we sit in a good place still. We're in a good spot, we just need to fix a few mistakes and we become even more dangerous."

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