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GENE'S BLOG: Breaking Good

In his latest blog, Gene Principe writes about the position the Oilers are in at the bye week and NHL All-Star break

by Gene Principe /

The weather is nice and it's the perfect timing to get outdoors after last week's deep freeze. There are fewer reasons to be indoors if you're a fan of the Edmonton Oilers. 

No Oilers to watch on Sportsnet and none to see in person at Rogers Place. A great time to catch up on some household chores, get outside for a walk, go to the local rink for a skate or just spend some of that 'hockey time' doing other things. Those could be some of the things you have been doing during the CBA mandated bye week with the NHL All-Star break all rolled up into one. 

If you're the Edmonton Oilers, the break came at a time when the team is playing their best hockey of the season or at least the year. The Oilers burst out of the gate to win their first five straight and then went to 7-1-0. 

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Since the calendar flipped to 2020, Edmonton has been right on their game with a 5-1-1 mark to start the new year. 

OK, I have to admit, I didn't realize how important the points were until they got them. 

Eleven out of a possible 14 points has left Edmonton sandwiched into the upper part of the Pacific Division. Four teams with the same number of points (57). The Oilers are one of those clubs and they are all just a single point from first. The Orange & Blue are in second having played either one or two games less than those chasing them. 

We know where Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl are going, or at least we know where they will be, on All-Star Weekend and that's St. Louis. 

Many of their teammates have taken off for some sand and sun. Others have stayed closer to home while one, Matt Benning, has gone to California. He isn't there to work on his tan but instead his game on a conditioning assignment as he inches closer to making it back into the lineup. 

Wherever they are and whatever they are doing they left work in the right frame of mind. They are winning and everyone is helping make it happen. 

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The hot goaltending, the stable blueline and the overall scoring supplied by the four lines up front have Edmonton's game right where it needs to be to push them in the final 33 contests of the season. 

Whatever Dave Tippett did during practice time is working during game time. The coach called them 'tweaks' which suggests small changes, but they are having a big impact on the team's success. 

With so many games to play and so little time available to practice, Edmonton was slightly off course in December. Now, things are back to where they should be and the result has been an incline up the Pacific Division. There isn't a lot of room for error, so the Oilers know they are in a scrap for post-season survival.

Edmonton is getting playoff-ready before the playoffs even begin. This is not for the faint of heart like, for example, when the Oilers had three days off before their game against Arizona and watched themselves tumble from second in their division to fifth. 

It's as Connor said, just before the break: "These are fun games to be in and they're all so important." 

The captain foreshadowed what's next on Edmonton's schedule and that's a January 29 home meeting with Calgary. The battle lines have been drawn somewhere in Red Deer and the games become more and more important. 

Rested, recharged, revitalized and ready to get back on the ice after a 'Breaking Good' moment in the season.

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