Patrick Maroon - Connor McDavid - Jesse Puljujarvi
Milan Lucic - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle
Zack Kassian - Drake Caggiula - Leon Draisaitl
Matt Hendricks - Mark Letestu - Tyler Pitlick
Oscar Klefbom - Adam Larsson
Andrej Sekera - Kris Russell
Darnell Nurse - Matthew Benning
Edmonton's 4-2 defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings puts them in free-fall mode. They've amassed zero wins in their last five games, ceding the Pacific Division lead to the Anaheim Ducks. They're one loss away from a Bettman .500, which would completely erase their improbable 7-2 start. The team is struggling to score more than one or two goals a game (they haven't scored more than two goals in their five game losing streak), and the knives are starting to come out in Oil Country.
The Oilers are in Dallas to take on the Stars. Edmonton looks to get a familiar face back into the lineup today, while at least a couple of lines look to get mixed up in an effort to spur some offence. Let's go to the tape.
The Oilers are saying
"If someone told me at the beginning of the year that we'd be sitting in second place in the Pacific two months into the year, I would have taken that any day. It's not the end of the world. We're going through a rough patch. Every team does it. We'll find a way out of it, just like everyone else does. I think we're still sitting in a good position."
That's Oilers captain Connor McDavid on weathering the storm.
The Oilers have struggled mightily to hit the scoresheet as of late, averaging just 1.8 goals during their five game losing streak. During that time, they're allowed an average of 3.6 goals. Quick maths suggest that both of these numbers could use some fine-tuning.
The opponents are saying
"I feel I am in great shape and ready to get back in there whenever the coach wants." Source
That's Stars forward Patrick Sharp on getting back into the lineup.
Sharp has been held out of the Stars' lineup for the last fourteen games with a concussion. Limited to just four games this season, Sharp will no doubt provide immediate offence on the club where he finished fifth in scoring (20-35-55) last season.
Have some of this
#oilers after 18 games 2016-17 :48 goals for, 48 against, 9-8-1 2015-16 47 goals for, 58 against, 6-12-0
We're getting precipitously close to the 20 game mark, and I think it's safe to say that we can make a few generalizations. Is the club better than 2015-16's club? Yes. Are they much better? I'm still on the fence. This year's Oilers have yielded eleven fewer goals in the first eighteen games. It's resulted in three more wins over last season. That's good. If that pace holds, it'll result in twelve or thirteen more wins on the year, which is quite an improvement. The offence remains strikingly similar, at least where it matters. Connor McDavid continues to put up points, and if he catches fire, the Oilers can make a run. When the team averages 1.8 goals per game over any length of time, it's no good. I don't think the Oilers are as good as their record was at 7-2, and I don't think they're as bad as their last nine suggest (2-6-1). So, what are the Oilers?
LINE SWITCH: Looking like Jesse Puljujarvi is going to get some more time on the top line with 97 and 19. McLellan experimented with this in the Kings game on Thursday, and liked what he saw.
HENDRICKS: Anton Lander has been sent down, which signals the return of Matt Hendricks to the Oilers' lineup. I've got him on the fourth line with Letestu and Pitlick, bumping Kassian up.
RUSSELL: One week ago, Kris Russell was "weeks away" based on this injury report. Yesterday, Dillon Simpson was sent down, so it's looking like Kris Russell is closer than "weeks" away. I thought it could be Brandon Davidson who is on the way back, but he didn't practice yesterday while Russell did.
Cam Talbot (8-7-1, .914 SV% / 2.66 GAA / 2 SO) will likely go for the Oilers after getting the night off in LA. Antti Niemi (3-2-2 / .898 SV% / 3.44 GAA) or Kari Lehtonen (4-4-3, .898 SV% / 3.06 GAA) will get the start for the Stars.
Iiro Pakarinen (knee), Drake Caggiula (hip), Mark Fayne (undisclosed) Brandon Davidson (upper body)will be out for the Oilers. Dallas is without forwards Jiri Hudler (ill), Ales Hemsky (hip), Jason Dickinson (hip) and Mattias Janmark (knee)