EDMONTON, AB - Oilers Captain Connor McDavid confirmed: The push for playoffs begins now.
And the Oilers are right in the thick of things, sitting tied with the Minnesota Wild and Anaheim Ducks for the final Western Conference wild card, one point removed from the first wild card spot, which is currently employed by the Dallas Stars who have 50 points.
"This is what you want as a hockey player; you want to be in the chase," McDavid, who is fourth in League scoring with 70 points, said on Friday. "It's still early, obviously, but we're in the position where the playoff push has to start now. There's a bunch of teams there and someone has to run away.
"It starts now."
Video: RAW | Connor McDavid 01.18.19
The Oilers are fortunate to have a game in hand on Dallas, Anaheim and Vancouver. The club has three big tests upcoming before the NHL All-Star break.
"We're excited as players and hopefully the fans are excited," McDavid added. "Ultimately, we got to be playing the way we can."
Oilers Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said there's a subtle enthusiasm within the Oilers Dressing Room, as the club has gained traction the past few outings. Edmonton is on a two-game winning streak after routing the Buffalo Sabres 7-2 then irking out a 3-2 shootout win over the Canucks on Wednesday.
"I think we just got a higher level of, I don't want to call it excitement, but enthusiasm because we see light at the end of the tunnel," Hitchcock started.
"There's a lot of enthusiasm around the team right now because we feel like we're starting to play really well. We know this is going to be a big test; these three teams have quickness and are built differently than we are. But there's a lot of confidence in our game now."
Video: RAW | Ken Hitchcock 01.18.19
Hitchcock has seen his share of playoff hockey in the city of Edmonton, although not for the club he's currently coaching. As head coach of the Stars, Hitchcock became accustomed to facing the Oilers and their loyal fan base.
"I said this when I came here: You don't play the Edmonton Oilers. You play the whole city… I mean that sincerely," Hitchcock said. "I stood on the bench for a number of years and you had to either pat guys on the shoulder or you had to kick them that their line was up because you couldn't talk to them. It was too loud.
"I'm hoping people are beginning to see that we've got some wind in our sail right now and we want to keep playing well. We know this is going to be hard but I think people are starting to understand and appreciate the way we're playing, and we're putting everything we can into it."