Happy American Thanksgiving, Oil Country.
While Edmonton Oilers fans likely didn’t spend Thursday eating turkey or watching football, they did have reason to celebrate.
The Oilers are in a playoff spot (first in the Pacific Division with 35 points). Since 2005/06, 76 per cent of the teams in a playoff spot at American Thanksgiving wound up making the post-season.
But there’s no celebrating in the Oilers dressing room.
“I just got asked about that. I didn’t even know about,” said forward Sam Gagner. “That’s not something we’re going to focus on.”
“I don’t think we read into that too much. We got a lot of work ahead of us,” said centre Leon Draisaitl.
“Somebody handed me a whole bunch of those stats this morning. I’m aware of them,” said head coach Dave Tippett. “There’s a long time between now and the end of March. Keep that in mind. We have to continue to get better.”
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The Oilers are guaranteed nothing, but that 76 per cent statistic does prove it’s not common to see drastic changes in the standing over the final two-thirds of the season.
“It’s a hard league to stretch anything out,” said Tippett.
“If you can get out of the gate early and put some points in the bank, it might shelter you a little bit if you run into some injury problems or run into a slump.”
The Oilers have posted their 16-8-3 record by avoiding extended dry spells. They’ve lost two games in a row in regulation time only once all season.
“We know when we play bad. We talk about it collectively as a group. We go out and we want to get back in the winning column,” said winger Zack Kassian.
“We said early in the year we want to be a team that responds,” said Draisaitl. “It’s something that we take pride in.”
Tippett said centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had “a little procedure this week” on his hand and is unlikely to play this weekend in the home-and-home against Vancouver.
Defenceman Kris Russell suffered a cut to his ear Wednesday in Colorado and didn’t practice Thursday.
“I felt for him, seeing him laying on the table last night,” said Tippett. “They’re sewing him up and half his ear (was) hanging off there.”
Russell should play Saturday. Forward Alex Chiasson had tests done Thursday after taking a big hit against the Avalanche.