The Colorado Avalanche come to town at third in the Western Conference, tied with San Jose with 107 points. The playoff-bound Avs have just two regulation losses in their last 10 games and are just another example of where the Oilers would like to be next season.
“We’ll take any team that’s in the playoffs, would be a good one,” Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said of emulating the Avalanche. “They’ve done a great job there. They’ve made a big swing, put themselves in a nice spot, they’re on a hell of a roll right now as well with that whole sharpening your teeth for the playoffs and I think there’s a lot of lessons to be learned there.”
Colorado executed the type of turnaround the Oilers are hoping they can duplicate. The Avalanche were 29th in the league last season, while Edmonton is currently 28th.
“Absolutely,” Oilers winger Jordan Eberle said. “They kind of built the same way we did as far as through the draft. They’ve got a lot of young guys and they’ve been able to kind of put it together and find a way to win. I think when I look at that anyways, I’m for sure jealous. They’re going to be in the playoffs this year and we’re not. That being said, it’s just another game tonight where we want to beat them and show that we can play with them. They’ve somehow found a way to do it and we have to find a way to do that. As of late, with the exception of the start of the season and halfway through the year, I think we’ve really found an identity that we’re comfortable with playing and we know it works.”
TIED AT THE TOP
The Oilers have three forwards tied for top honours on the team in goal scoring. Eberle, David Perron and Taylor Hall are all tied with 27 goals on the season.
That kind of log jam at the top has not sparked competition as much as it has unity.
“We haven’t thought too much about it,” Eberle said. “I’m sure if you ask them I don’t know if they’ll add my name to that list, I have two empty netters. It’s good to have that balanced scoring where you have three guys that are kind of the top of the team, it’s great. I would be lying if one of us thought about getting 30, I’m sure we all want to. But I think whenever those two score I’m just as happy as when I score.”
As of late, the Oilers have been playing a much more competitive brand of hockey. They have taken some of the NHL’s elite to the brink of defeat while taking out playoff-calibre teams like Anaheim and Phoenix, in winning two of their last four.
The team’s mindset hasn’t changed with just three games left in the season; win them all.
“We’re trying to win every game and I think our guys have shown that they’re not going to be shy about it,” Eakins said. “They’re still very attentive, they’re upbeat on the bench, they’re supporting each other and that’s been going on for quite some time now. But they’ve been able to continue it on even though you could go back 20 games and even though you’re not out of the playoffs you quietly know that this isn’t going to happen for you. But when you get to the last two weeks, you’re firmly out of it but our guys have paid no attention to it. They’ve (said) alright, we’re working on our habits, we’re going to continue on, we’re not going to just start throwing caution to the wind and so far so good on that. I think in our last, especially our last few games have really shown that.”
GETTING THAT GOAL
Oilers Ryan Smyth is just one goal away from breaking the franchise’s all-time record for power-play goals. He tied Glenn Anderson (126) on March 6. It has been clear that Smyth’s teammates have been trying to set him up with that milestone but he says it will come by doing the same, simple things he always has.
“Sometimes you’ve just got to stick to the basics, get the puck to the net and that’s where I’ve been fortunate over the years to get as many as I do in front of the net,” Smyth said. “The puck comes to the net and it’s a tip or a rebound and hopefully it can happen here.”