Where: Climate Pledge Arena
When: Saturday, December 18, 2021; 7:00pm PST
Wait, who are we playing? Landlubber’s Guide to the Edmonton Oilers
Local TV: ROOT Sports NW
Local Radio: 950 AM KJR
SiriusXM: Channel 219
Last Time Out
This is already the third meeting between these two Pacific Division rivals, which marks the halfway point in the season series. Seattle hosted the Oilers back on December 3rd, scoring first and never falling behind, and finally saluting the home crowd with a 4-3 victory.
Philipp Grubauer stopped 29 shots on the night; the Kraken were 53% at the face-off dot; and while they gave Edmonton four power play opportunities, the Kraken were able to successfully kill three of them. Alex Wennberg, Colin Blackwell, and Adam Larsson all scored for Seattle, as did Yanni Gourde in stylish fashion:
The final Edmonton goal on the night was scored by Connor McDavid. What’s noteworthy about that, you may ask? He hasn’t scored since. That’s not a typo: Connor McDavid has not had a goal since December 3rd. The other half of the Oilers’ one-two punch, Leon Draisaitl, has just two tallies in that same stretch. Hmmm...
Stats, Streaks, & Droughts
In the first part of the year it looked like nothing could stop the Edmonton Oilers from dominating the Pacific Division. We’ve said this in years past and watched them fall gradually out of the top spot; this year it’s more like plummeting. After starting the season with a 9-1-0 record... well, put it this way: if the playoffs started tomorrow, Edmonton would land the bottom wild-card spot in the Western Conference. They have just 4 wins in their last 10 games — which included a six-game losing streak — and are just 3-3 in their last 6 games against Pacific Division teams.
The Kraken would have liked to ask Santa for a playoff berth this season, but that dream is floating away like snowflakes on the breeze. Seattle has now dropped 7 points behind 7th place Vancouver in the division (yes, that’s a polite way of saying we’re in the basement), with a 4-4-2 record in their last 10 outings. The Joonas Donskoi Goal Drought Vigil continues, with 29 goalless games in his rear view mirror as he takes the ice this evening. The only member of the Kraken to dent the twine against Anaheim on Wednesday was Ryan Donato, who notched his second goal in as many games with this emphatic tally:
A pretty goal from an even prettier pass. pic.twitter.com/vvyO9Yh81w— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) December 16, 2021
The four (active) players at the top of the stats sheet for Seattle — Jordan Eberle, Jaden Schwartz, Jared McCann, and Alex Wennberg — have just 3 goals between them in the last 5 games. Goals have dried up from the blue line as well of late, with only 3 goals credited to defensemen during the month of December.
Players To Watch
Gotta go with the goalies tonight. Youngster Stuart Skinner has been pressed into duty with two veteran goaltenders injured and Mikko Koskinen returning to his usual form (terrible), and has answered the call. He’s sporting a .922 SV% on the year, despite regularly being peppered with shots through the Oilers’ errant defense. This 46-save performance against Winnipeg is indicative of what the kid can do when he’s in the zone:
We expect Grubauer to get the call tonight for the Kraken, though with no wins in his last four starts it’s difficult to see why — especially when Chris Driedger has three straight wins dating back to his revenge game in Florida. Grubauer’s last win came against — you guessed it — Edmonton, so he’s the better bet to man the pipes for Seattle. Overall Gru is 7-12-3 on the year, with stats that don’t come close to what we expect to see from him given his salary. He needs to get back on the winning track, and there would be no better time than tonight in front of the home crowd.
Injuries, Illnesses, Additions, & Scratches
Buckle up for this, because the Edmonton Oilers’ roster more closely resembles a M*A*S*H unit than a hockey team. There was a legitimate chance that the club would not be getting on a plane Friday evening, and tonight’s game would be postponed. But the Oilers are in town, and as of this writing the game will still take place. Be sure to follow us on Twitter for any late-breaking news on this front.
On the Oilers’ long-term injured reserve you have winger Josh Archibald, defensemen Kris Russell, and goaltenders Mike Smith and Alex Stalock; the standard IR list includes defenseman Markus Niemeläinen; and the players put into COVID-19 protocol in the last week now includes defenseman Duncan Keith, forwards Devin Shore, Ryan McLeod, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins — plus head coach Dave Tippett.
Getting the call from the AHL Bakersfield Condors were forwards Brendan Perlini, Cooper Marody, and Seth Griffith. Of the three, Griffith is the one to keep an eye on — he’s putting up point-per-game numbers in the AHL thus far in 2021.
For the Kraken, no change from Wednesday’s game: forwards Yanni Gourde, Colin Blackwell, and Riley Sheahan remain in COVID-19 protocol and are unavailable. Goaltender Philipp Grubauer took an awkward hit in his game on Wednesday and was taken out as a precaution, but was at practice on Friday and is available tonight. Everyone else is healthy.
- With the Maple Leafs tied for the top spot in the Atlantic Division, the Canadian hockey press has shoved their microscope up the Oilers’ ass in recent weeks. What’s at fault for their fall from the top of the Pacific? Coaching? Special teams? 5-on-5 play? Goaltending? Bottom-six forwards? Not enough offense from the defensemen? Not enough defense from the forwards? This isn’t the blogosphere, mind you; this is the mainstream press. Nobody is safe when the wins are scarce.
- The Kraken host Toronto and Arizona in the coming days, but Seattle’s planned outing against Calgary originally scheduled for December 23rd has been postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak among the Flames. This means a nice long 5-day rest for our boys over the Christmas holiday before a tilt against Vancouver on the 27th.
- If you’re outside the Seattle area you wouldn’t have known that KING5 TV had extensive behind-the-scenes access to the Seattle Kraken organ-eye-zation starting with training camp and going all the way through to the home opener. The results — “32 Days: On The Road With The Seattle Kraken — is now available on YouTube. Management, coaches, players, announcers, fans, a new arena, a new practice facility, three pre-season home games that weren’t at home; the hour-long program follows all of the ups and downs along the way.