Edmonton Oilers (6-15-4) at Winnipeg Jets (12-9-4)
|Date & Time||Wednesday December 3, 2014, 9:00 PM (EST)|
The Line: Winnipeg Jets -178 / Edmonton Oilers +162 --- Over/Under: 5.5
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It’s amazing how year after year the Edmonton Oilers just continue to be noncompetitive despite the numerous high draft picks they accumulate. This franchise is loaded with young talent but they are incapable of playing as a team on most nights and continue to show no signs of getting out of this mess. Management regimes come and go and yet the Oilers are just awful year after year. Right now the Oilers are in the midst of a 10 game losing streak and with home-and-home sets coming up against the San Jose Sharks and Anaheim Ducks, it would really behoove them to get a win on Wednesday night in Winnipeg against the Jets. It’s been clear for a while there’s a losing mentality in this organization and if it wasn’t clear before it certainly is now after Andrew Ference let loose on his team after their most recent loss. Ference has won the Stanley Cup and he knows what it takes to be a successful team in this league. His frustration with his teammates is understandable, and one thing that the Oilers management can do is bring in more players from winning cultures like Ference, and start to identify and weed out the players that take for granted what it means to be an NHL player. There’s too much talent on this club for them to be playing like this game after game and year after year. Sure there are limitations in Edmonton, and acquiring players via free agency is definitely one of them, but it’s no excuse for this type of performance. Edmonton has lost games in all different ways during the streak, losing close contests, getting blown out, blowing leads. How they respond on Wednesday night will be interesting to watch because if these young players don’t come out and play a strong game after listening to that indictment from their captain then it might just be completely hopeless for all of them. Edmonton is not a good hockey club, but there’s also no way that they’re this bad. The schedule doesn’t get any easier as we mentioned so there’s no use in feeling sorry for themselves. There needs to be a real desire to win every second that this club is on the ice and it starts on Wednesday in Winnipeg.
For the Winnipeg Jets this is one of those games that they can’t look past. With the Avalanche, Ducks, and Stars all on deck it would be easy to look ahead and start gearing up to make a run in the Central Division standings. Right now the Jets are in the hunt for a playoff spot and while it’s still early in the season it’s always more important for teams like Winnipeg to not knock themselves out of things in the early going. A win over the Oilers is extremely important for them if they’re going to be fighting for points come the end of the year. After wins over the Columbus Blue Jackets and Buffalo Sabres the Jets tried to make it three straight wins when they took on the Boston Bruins on Friday night. Dustin Byfuglien’s fourth goal of the season gave the Jets a first period lead but it was the only offense the club could muster on the night. Winnipeg managed a point thanks to the play of Matt Hutchinson who has been a very pleasant surprise backing up Ondrej Pavelec on the year. Hutching is 4-1-2 on the season with a sparkling 1.56 goals against average and .947 save percentage. It will be interesting to see just how much the Jets choose to play the 24 year-old moving forward, especially if Pavelec hits a rut at some point. This Winnipeg team looks like they’re going to have a challenging time staying in things when you look at their roster on paper, but having Paul Maurice behind the behind certainly helps. Maurice is always the type of coach that seems to find a way to get the most out of his players, and the Jets are going to need that if they want to steal a playoff berth in a very challenging division.
The Jets are absolutely the better team and will probably find a way to win this game, but if Edmonton is going to win a game any time soon one would think that it would be this one.