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What you need to know about COVID-19: August 6, 2020
Maybe they’re all like Denis Lemieux, the French Canadian goaltender of the Charlestown Chiefs from the movie Slap Shot who declared; “my h’allergies to these &;%$#@ fans has returned.”
With seven out of a possible 10 points produced on a five-game road trip, the Edmonton Oilers dug themselves out of a hole in an attempt to reboot their season, start all over again and move back into at least a temporary possession of a playoff position.
But they don’t have another away game this month and the fear is they’ll return home and return to being the terrible team they were at Rogers Place throughout December to almost sewer their season.
It’s a strange schedule.
The Oilers returned home to play the Nashville Predators Tuesday and the Arizona Coyotes Saturday and then are off for 10 days during the All-Star break before returning to action at home to play host to Calgary Jan. 29 and St. Louis Jan. 31.
And the Oilers are a strange squad.
When it comes to playing in the palatial Rogers Place, Edmonton went into New Year’s Eve game against the New York Rangers having lost 11 of their previous 15 there after winning their first five home games of the season. The Oilers have only managed to win 10 of their first 21 games at home this year.
This is a team that sits first overall in penalty killing on the road (88.5 per cent) and 29th at home (74.6 per cent).
How do you explain that?
Edmonton has allowed 148 goals so far this season and given up 80 of them at home and 68 on the road where they’ve played five more games than they have at home.
Does that make any sense?
“We’re going to put them in hotels here the night before the game,” coach Dave Tippett deadpanned when I brought all that up after practice Monday.
“When you play on the road you play a simple direct style. You have to be all in. At home you tend to get fancy a little bit and maybe tend to try to put on a bit of a show for your fans. But the best show you can put on for your fans is for us to win.
“On the road we’re generally playing a straight, disciplined game and that’s the kind of game, when we’re at our best, we play. We have to have that type of mindset wherever we play. It doesn’t matter.”
That makes sense at even strength. But it doesn’t explain that penalty-killing stat.
Obviously they have to find a cure for that condition sooner rather than later.
When you only play four games in a span of 20 days, it might be a good idea to win them. And seven of their next nine games are at home.
“I watch the scores. I look at the standings. I think everyone does. I think we all know where we’re at. Every point is huge right now,” said Leon Draisaitl.
“We have to bring that road mentality we have to the home games,” said defenceman Darrell Nurse when he came off the ice at practice Monday. “When we go into someone else’s building we have the attitude that we’re expected to lose. We get up for that challenge. We have to make this a hard building to play in. We don’t make it hard enough on opposing teams when they come in here. We have a lot of opportunities to do that the rest of the season.”
One thing about the situation they’re in now, said Nurse, just about every game they have remaining will have playoff implications not just for themselves but also for the teams they play.
Like Nashville. The Predators sit four points back of the Oilers with three games in hand. If the Oilers win they can create some separation. If they lose, they’ll have opened the door for another team to get into the thick of the playoff race.
Saturday against Arizona it’ll be about beating a team currently in one of the three protected Pacific Division spots, two points up on Edmonton with the Oilers having a game in hand.
Tippett sees the situation as being ideal in terms of being able to forge some steel, as former Oilers coach Ted Green used to phrase it.
“It’s great. We talked about it this morning. It’s where you want to be. To be a playoff team you have to earn the right to be a playoff team,” said Tippett. “When everything is bunched up so tight and there are so many teams involved, if you get into the playoffs, you’ve earned your way in. And that’s what we have to do.
“If we want to become a playoff team and we want to become a team that can be successful in the playoffs, this run at is going on is going to give us the opportunity to earn that.
“It’s a big part of growing as a team. I think we’ve come a ways in the first half but the second half is really going to tell where we’re at
“We have a lot of work ahead to earn ourselves that playoff spot. But I think our guys are up to that challenge.”
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020