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GENE'S BLOG: Poised for a push

In his latest blog, Gene Principe looks ahead to the final 13 games of the season

by Gene Principe / Special to

O.K. everybody all together now. Deep breath in, and then exhale. One, two, three... let's try that again. Deep breath in, and then exhale. Alright doesn't that feel much better? Of course it doesn't feel as good as Tuesday's win over Dallas. A lot of Oilers fans could exhale and breathe a whole lot easier after a 7-1 pasting of Dallas. The tension had been building in the building they call home and the city that doubles as the Alberta capital. I get the nerves getting the better of people but I don't think it ever reached the players.

Hanging around the room seeing the player interactions, I never got the sense they were overwhelmed by what was happening to them and what was going on around them (i.e. other teams winning). If he said it once, Milan Lucic has said it a hundred times: "HAVE FUN." Really enjoy this opportunity and everything that comes with it. Sure there is pressure but let's look at the alternative. No pressure, sitting near the bottom of the standings and running out the string hoping you don't get hurt but at the same time pile up points, saves or whatever makes your stat line looks better. Sound like fun? Not really.

This month marks 30 years in television for me. One of the questions I often get is, "Do you still get nervous?" The answer is yes. However, the nerves have dissipated over the years. The other thing is the people I work with who have been around for years and some decades. They have added to my calmness before it's lights, camera and action.

That's the way it is around the dressing room for so many of the core players. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jordan Eberle, Connor McDavid, Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom and more have never been through this late season push in the NHL. They don't seem overwhelmed to me and if they are, look to the left and there's Milan Lucic. To the right is Patrick Maroon. Across the room is newly acquired David Desharnais. Beside him is Benoit Pouliot. Veterans with experience in these situations and beyond.

Here's where Edmonton is right now. Not in the top three of their division but positioned to make it as high as second in the Pacific. In the wild card, they are sitting in spot number one and have an eight-point lead over the closest non-playoff team. Any Oiler, Oilers employee or Oiler fan would have taken that a year ago or even a month ago. A little perspective on what this 2016-17 edition of the Oilers has accomplished: They sit at 81 points. It's the first time they have cracked the 80-point barrier since 2008-09. The last time they hit 90 points or above was 2005-06 when Edmonton topped out at 95 and made it all the way to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final.

While Milan Lucic has told his teammates to have fun, the same adage should be adopted by the fans. Enjoy what is happening to the Edmonton Oilers.

This is a great time of the year as spring has sprung and it's a great time of the season. By April 9, 16 teams will have qualified to continue their quest for the Cup. Despite the angst and anxiety that comes with wanting something so bad, the Edmonton Oilers are poised and prepared to push for one of them.

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