On Thursday afternoon, the Oilers were on the verge of departing Edmonton for Vancouver to play a road game against the Canucks on Friday. Instead, just before they planned to depart came word that the game had been postponed to give the COVID-19-decimated Canucks more time to prepare for games.
So, the Oilers will return to action Saturday on the road against the Winnipeg Jets, giving them a full week between games since they lost 5-0 to the Calgary Flames on April 10.
“It’s tough to feel bad for ourselves,” captain Connor McDavid said of the change-up his team faced. “There are people not even allowed to go into work, not even allowed to go to school and not allowed to do all the things that they’d normally do.”
“We’re obviously very fortunate to come into work and to get to live a fairly normal life so I think it would be hard for us to complain about some scheduling issues and stuff like that,” McDavid added.
The Oilers have 14 games remaining in the regular season and head into Saturday’s clash five points behind the Jets for the second spot in the North Division, albeit with two games in hand. Edmonton, which will be without top-six forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, will return home after the game to face the Montreal Canadiens for a pair of clashes and then return to Winnipeg for two more tilts.
The Oilers have won four of the six meetings with the Jets so far this season, and they know the rest received over the past week will help them down the stretch.
“We’ve had good focus the last couple of days,” coach Dave Tippett said. “We had some good meetings, some good practices about trying to continue to build our game. This is the real stretch drive here. We’ve got to play well to get in the playoffs and then we want to be playing well if we get in the playoffs. That’s our mindset here. The last 14 games are very important about how we prepare, how we play each night to build our game.”
The Jets return home on the heels of a 5-2 win over the division-leading Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday and have won five of six games.
“We grinded the whole game,” said forward Mark Scheifele, who collected one goal and three points in Toronto and is riding a six-game streak in which he has eight points. “We didn’t like our whole game, but we definitely answered the call when we needed to. That’s a big win to end a long, long road trip.”
After playing 17 of 22 games on the road, the Jets have five straight home games to make a push for the top spot in the division.
“It will be nice to sleep in our own beds. That’s for sure,” Scheifele added. “You feel like you’re lying in a hotel room pretty much all day. It’s just a matter of getting our rest, and when we come to the rink, come with a purpose and that’s what we need to do, we know, coming forward.”
Winnipeg has played a league-high 25 road games and also leads with 16 road victories.
“When I looked at the schedule, that block from March 8 to the 19th of April for me we were either going to sink or swim on that,” coach Paul Maurice said. “Maybe what’s happened is we found our identity in that. I fired it out on purpose a lot of times so that people would fully appreciate this hasn’t been easy, and this team’s done a good job.”
–Field Level Media