After RSVP'ing to the 2021 National Hockey League post-season soirée with a 5-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks, the Oilers begin Phase 2.
Phase 2 emphasizes structure, player personnel and momentum leading into playoffs.
The Oilers have shown a vast improvement in the foundation of their play this season, averaging 3.26 goals per game (9th), 2.68 goals against (23rd) alongside a plus-29 goal differential (8th). It's an aspect the team will strive to maintain and possibly elevate as the playoffs inch closer.
As for the player personnel, Head Coach Dave Tippett is well-aware of the physical demand of post-season puck and knows his lineup could fluctuate from game to game, barring any bumps or bruises.
The bench boss will use the rest of the regular season to get taxi squad skaters back up to game speed while providing rest to players that are dealing with minor injuries.
"You got to continue to play well," Tippett said Tuesday afternoon from Rogers Arena. "You can't just take a dip and think you're going to turn it back on again. There are a lot of things within your team game you can work on. You got players that you want to make sure are ready. There are lots of things to play for here."
Oilers players have held one another accountable during the pursuit for playoffs. Clinching a post-season spot was an accomplishment for the Orange & Blue but the organization knows the real work is just getting started.
"The details and how you play aren't going to change just because we've got the 'x' beside your name," Tippett said. "Preparation keeps your game in the right direction. We've talked about that and hopefully, we continue to play well."
But that doesn't mean teams can't transfer their regular-season momentum to it. That will be a focus for the Oilers over the last leg of the campaign.
"There's definitely an element of carrying your game in from the regular season to playoffs," Darnell Nurse, who has scored 15 goals this season, said.
"You want to continue to build off the momentum we've built to this point. You don't want to lose the game, structure and the way we want to play. You want to continue to play the right way knowing that you're going into the playoffs with the right mindset, game plan and work ethic."
When the 2019-20 season was paused, the Oilers held the second spot in the Pacific Division with a 37-25-9 record, going 5-3-2 in their last 10 games. Once the Qualifying Round began, the club wasn't able to return to the same form they established previously, being eliminated by the Chicago Blackhawks in four outings.
"These games are important in maintaining our focus, our game and the way we want to play going into playoffs," Nurse added. "The habits, the work and the way you play carry over."
Tippett confirmed goaltender Mike Smith would get the nod in goal on Tuesday after Koskinen backstopped the club with a 20-save winning effort on Monday.
The Oilers coach also said that the team is dealing with a few minor injuries, which could cause changes to the lineup. Edmonton did not hold a morning skate, so line combinations and defence pairings will be determined during warmups.
Stay tuned to EdmontonOilers.com for any roster moves before puck drop.
The Oilers defeated the Vancouver Canucks 5-3 in the first of a two-in-two set at Rogers Arena, securing a berth in the 2021 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Connor McDavid scored two goals and two assists to inch closer to 100 points with 91 through 50 games. Leon Draisaitl registered a pair of helpers and rests second in scoring with 73 points.
Edmonton is on a two-game winning streak and owns a 7-3-0 record in the last 10 games, gripping second in the North Division with 31 wins and 64 points.
Canucks Team Scope
Brock Boeser made it a close game late but the Canucks dropped their fifth consecutive match on Monday after the loss to Edmonton. Vancouver is 3-6-0 since resuming their campaign on April 18 following a postponement due to the National Hockey League's COVID-19 Protocol.
Boeser leads the Canucks in scoring with 18 goals and 38 points this season and J.T. Miller is second with 12 goals and 36 points. Defender Quinn Hughes has contributed three goals and 32 points from the back end.
Vancouver has 10 games remaining in their '20-21 season and is last in the North Division with 41 points through 46 contests.
Tuesday's game marks the seventh of 10 meetings between the Oilers and Canucks this campaign. Edmonton is 4-2-0 in the season series, outscoring Vancouver 21-15.
McDavid (7G, 5A) and Draisaitl (1G, 11A) are tied in points in the season series against Vancouver with 12 apiece. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has two goals and six points while Kailer Yamamoto has one goal and four points.
Horvat has three goals and one assist against the Oilers this season to lead the Canucks. Boeser (3G), Nate Schmidt (2G, 1A), Nils Hoglander (1G, 2A), Elias Pettersson (1G, 2A), Hughes (3A) and Tanner Pearson (3A) all have three points.
By the Numbers:
The Oilers rank 2nd on the power play (26.5%) and 13th on the penalty kill (80.2%). ... McDavid has a 1.82 points per game average this season, which would put him at 149 points over an 82-game campaign. ... Leon Draisaitl has an NHL-best plus-32 plus-minus and Darnell Nurse is 2nd at plus-29. ... Edmonton is 16-7-2 on the road this year. ...
The Canucks are 21st on the PP (19.4%) and 19th on the PK (79.1%). ... Vancouver allows an average of 33.2 shots against per game, which is third-most in the League. ... Conversely, the club is 20th in shots per game, averaging 29.3. ... VAN is 4th in the faceoff dot with a 53.2 percentage. ...
OILERS - Kris Russell (lower body) is day-to-day; Joakim Nygard (hand) is day-to-day; Zack Kassian (lower body) is on LTIR; Slater Koekkoek (upper body) is on LTIR; Oscar Klefbom (shoulder) is on LTIR.
CANUCKS - Brandon Sutter (upper body) is out; Tyler Motte (upper body) is out; Jake Virtanen (personal reasons) is day-to-day; Antoine Roussel (lower body) is day-to-day; Elias Pettersson (upper body) is on IR; Jay Beagle (undisclosed) is on IR; Justin Bailey (upper body) is on IR.