After losses in Vancouver and Calgary to start their post-Christmas schedule, the Oilers return home tonight to take on the Los Angeles Kings looking to snap their current two game losing streak. With losses in five of their last six games, the six game winning streak that Oilers kicked off December with suddenly feels like it was forever ago. This will be the Oilers third straight game played within the Pacific Division, a stretch that will extend to five games after the Oilers play host to the Ducks to end 2015 and the Coyotes to start 2016.
If the Oilers have any hope of making the playoffs they'll have to take advantage of a very weak Pacific Division, something they've been unable to do to date. With the two most recent losses, one of which was in overtime, the Oilers now have a 4-5-1 record against Pacific Division teams, and the worst point percentage in the division. It goes without saying that that simply won't be good enough and it doesn't get any easier for the Oilers tonight as they take on the Kings, the only good team in the division.
The Oilers lineup tonight will be very similar to the lineup from the last two games, the lone exception being Brad Hunt replacing Nikita Nikitin. It also looks like Hunt will take over for Justin Schultz on the first power play unit as the team tries to find a combination that will see the power play covert at a rate slightly better than the 1-for-10 over the last dozen games. Schultz's ice time has spiked in recent games as the team deals with injuries to Oscar Klefbom and Brandon Davidson and Schultz became one of the team's top four defenders by merit not just wish. At even strength the minutes he was playing were at least defendable, but on the power play it's been clear for a while that the Oilers need a better option, maybe Hunt will be that option.
Between the pipes for the Oilers will be Cam Talbot. This will be Talbots fifth start in eight games, and he made a relief appearance in the Oilers' last game after Anders Nilsson gave up four goals in two periods; the goalie switch was likely more about trying to wake the Oilers up than it was Nilsson playing bad. Even if Nilsson wasn't playing bad in his last start it feels like Talbot is just one good start from fully reclaiming the job of the number one netminder that he started the season with. Hopefully that start will come tonight.