Monday, May 23, 2022
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Oilers in a pickle ahead of the Battle of Alberta

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Edmonton Oilers will head into their latest Battle of Alberta meeting against Calgary Flames on Saturday with the weight of the world hanging on their shoulders.

The Oilers’ miserable recent run continued last night as they slumped to a demoralising 6-0 home defeat against the Florida Panthers.

They outshot the Panthers 17-7 in the first period, but failed to find a way past netminder Sergei Bobrovsky who was in excellent form.

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Edmonton have now lost seven straight games and 13 of their past 15, leaving them devoid of confidence ahead of the Saturday’s game.

Under normal circumstances the Battle of Alberta is one of ice hockey’s great rivalries, but this weekend’s game has taken on added importance.

As recently highlighted by Betway Insider, the bitterness between the two teams intensified due to an incident during a game in January 2020.

Two bad hits by Matthew Tkachuk on Zack Kassian sparked an angry reaction from the latter, who proceeded to pummel his rival into submission.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety ruled there was nothing wrong with Tkachuk’s hits and banned Kassian for two games. The anger has festered since then.

However, that anger is not translating into results for the Oilers, who are now in serious danger of missing out on the play-offs.

Their record of 13 defeats in 15 games statistically makes them the worst team in the NHL, yet their roster suggests they should be anything but that.

General manager Ken Holland is coming under increasing fire, and may well be forced to take drastic action to resolve the situation.

He has never previously sacked a head coach during the regular season, which will provide some comfort to the beleaguered Dave Tippett.

Despite this, Holland may have no alternative than to pull the trigger given how badly the Oilers’ season is unravelling.

Oilers’ star Duncan Keith told SportsNet after the game that conceding the first goal in 23 of the last 27 games is a recipe for disaster.

“We had a good start and then they get the lead and then we’re chasing it,” said Keith.

“I think we have to find a way to get that first goal, to get a better feeling in the room. The way things are going right now, we get down, it’s frustrating.”

The Oilers’ demise has not been helped by the drop off in form of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl, who have combined for a goal and an assist in the past four games.

The pair have had plenty to say for themselves off the ice, but are not delivering the goods when it matters most. That needs to change and quickly.

The Oilers’ powerplay is a shambles, bagging one goal in its last 11 attempts, while the penalty kill coughed up another three goals against the Panthers.

Given the current state of play in Edmonton you would be forgiven for thinking that a clash with the Flames is the last thing they need right now.

However, having recorded an impressive 5-2 road victory over their rivals earlier this season, the Oilers know they can come out on top.

McDavid scored his 11th career hat-trick during that game, taking his tally to 26 goals and 43 points in 31 career outings against the Flames.

Another defeat will push the Oilers further away from the play-offs and raise plenty of questions about McDavid’s long-term future in Edmonton.

If there was ever a time for McDavid to show why many respected pundits rate him as the best player in the NHL, it is this weekend.

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