After back-to-back wins during which they scored a combined 13 goals, the Edmonton Oilers may finally have turned the corner following a surprisingly poor start.
However, a better measuring stick for the seventh-place Oilers will come Tuesday night when they host the Pacific Division-leading and defending Stanley Cup champion Vegas Golden Knights.
It will be the first meeting between the division rivals since May 14, when the visiting Golden Knights, behind a hat trick by Jonathan Marchessault, eliminated the Oilers in Game 6 of a Western Conference semifinal series with a 5-2 victory.
“It is a big game,” Oilers forward Connor McDavid said of the Tuesday matchup. “It is a measuring game for us to see where we are at against one of the league’s best if not the league’s best. It is a great measuring stick game for us and something that we should be looking forward to.”
Edmonton, expected to make a strong challenge for the Western Conference crown before the season began, sputtered out of the gates with a 3-9-1 record and fired coach Jay Woodcroft on Nov. 12. They have won four of their seven games under new head coach Kris Knoblauch, including a 5-0 road shutout of the Washington Capitals on Friday and an 8-2 victory over the visiting Anaheim Ducks on Sunday.
McDavid, the reigning Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner after leading the NHL in points (153), goals (64) and assists (89) last season, had five points (one goal, four assists) in the Sunday win. It was his ninth career five-point contest, the most among active players. McDavid has 12 points (three goals, nine assists) over his past four games.
It’s hardly been a one-man show, though. Zach Hyman had two goals and an assist against the Ducks while Leon Draisaitl and Evander Kane each had a goal and an assist. Draisaitl has three goals and four assists over the past four games, while Hyman has four goals and three assists in the past three games.
“Confidence is obviously a big part of it,” McDavid said. “I think the whole team is playing better and I think that’s why you’re seeing guys start to have success. It’s not just a light switch that one or two guys can just turn on. It takes a whole group, and I thought our whole group’s been playing better of late.”
Vegas, which went 11-0-1 before taking a regulation loss this season, comes in with a Western Conference-best 31 points but is just 3-5-2 over the past 10 games — including a 2-1 overtime road loss against the Calgary Flames on Monday night.
The Golden Knights, who were shut out just twice in 104 games (regular season and playoffs) en route to winning their first Stanley Cup last season, have hit the wall on offense during their recent skid. The club has just 12 goals in the past seven games and was shut out three times in that span. Six of those goals came in one game, a 6-5 win at Montreal on Nov. 16.
MacKenzie Weegar scored on a wrist shot from the right circle with 4.8 seconds left in overtime to win it for Calgary on Monday. The Flames’ Dan Vladar finished with 27 saves, including on three Vegas breakaways.
“It’s another game where we’re in the game and playing well enough to win, and if we finish some of those Grade A (chances) we’re not talking about a loss,” Vegas coach Bruce Cassidy said. “It is what it is.”
Golden Knights center Nicolas Roy added, “It’s not a panic. Every team in this league is going to have bad stretches. We’re in one right now. We have great players. We have to find ways to win. We (aren’t scoring) goals right now. We need to bring more traffic, bring more pucks to the net and find ways to win.”
–Field Level Media