NHL: Fighting for Pacific Division crown, Oilers, Kings meet
The top three teams in the Pacific Division have separated themselves from the rest of the pack during the month of March, but there isn’t much space between the trio of contenders.
The Edmonton Oilers will try to move up a spot in the standings when they host the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night. They can also inch closer to their first division title since the 1986-87 season.
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Edmonton (43-23-9, 95 points) enters the game in third place in the division, a point behind the Kings and three points behind the first-place Vegas Golden Knights, who lost 7-4 to the Oilers on Tuesday night in Las Vegas.
The Oilers have seven games remaining, including two against Los Angeles, while the Kings and Golden Knights each have eight games left, including a final matchup against each other on April 6 in Las Vegas.
All three teams have played extremely well in March.
The Oilers have gone 11-2-1 this month, the Kings 9-1-2 and the Golden Knights 11-3-0.
“I don’t think we’re anywhere near our potential just yet,” Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft said. “We’re building toward peaking at the right time, which is in about three weeks.”
Los Angeles (43-21-10, 96 points) had its franchise-record 12-game point streak end with a 2-1 loss to the host Calgary Flames on Tuesday night.
The Kings ran into a hot goalie in Jacob Markstrom, who made 32 saves, and a desperate team in the Flames, who are sitting just outside a playoff spot.
Kings coach Todd McLellan said Los Angeles also struggled with its game management against Calgary, something he hadn’t seen in a long stretch.
“We were willing to extend shifts to look for offense and then it cost us many minutes in our zone after that,” McLellan said. “Certainly something we can fix. Not our best, but yet a game that we had a chance to win.”
Los Angeles forward Phillip Danault said the Kings just need to make a few simple adjustments heading into their matchup against the Oilers.
“Just capitalize on our chances, play a little bit more aggressive and don’t think about it too much,” he said. “Overall, (the loss to Calgary) wasn’t that bad of a game, they played well and we didn’t play too badly, but we’ve got to be better.”
Slowing the Oilers on the offensive end will be a much bigger challenge than it was against the Flames.
Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl continue to rack up points at a record pace.
McDavid has 19 points (six goals, 13 assists) during his nine-game point streak, and Draisaitl has 20 points (six goals, 14 assists) during his 10-game point streak.
And then there are others like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who had a goal and four assists in the win against the Golden Knights on Tuesday.
“I’m just trying to help out a little more offensively than I did last year,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “Obviously, when you have team success, individual success follows that sometimes.”
Edmonton has surrendered four goals in each of its past three games and in five of the past six, an area that remains a concern for Woodcroft.
“We’re working toward that. I saw good signs in our team,” Woodcroft said after the win against Vegas. “I thought there was a lot of good for us to build on.”
–Field Level Media
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