LAS VEGAS — All you need to know about the difference in the way the seasons are going for the Edmonton Oilers and Vegas Golden Knights is to see how they spent their time Wednesday in preparation for Thursday night’s game at T-Mobile Arena.
The Oilers (23-28-4), losers of four in a row including a 7-5 home loss to Florida on Monday night, practiced and then spent much of their time in the locker room afterward talking about the fact the team likely will be sellers as the Feb. 26 trade deadline approaches.
Meanwhile, the Western Conference leading Golden Knights (37-15-4), who completed a three-game season sweep of the Chicago Blackhawks with a 5-2 victory on Tuesday night, had what was termed “an off-ice workout” with members of the show “KA” at the MGM Grand Hotel, doing things like juggling and getting lifted above the stage with various objects by cast members.
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Yep, life is good for Gerard Gallant’s surprising squad these days. … that is, unless they’re playing Edmonton.
Vegas is 13-1-1 against Pacific Division teams during its remarkable inaugural season. The fly in the ointment, however, have been the underwhelming Oilers who are 2-0 against the Golden Knights, including an 8-2 victory at Rogers Place on Nov. 14 that ranks as the worst loss in Vegas’ short history.
Edmonton also handed the Golden Knights a 3-2 overtime loss at T-Mobile Arena on Jan. 13 on a goal by defenseman Darnell Nurse.
“I’m not sure there’s any rhyme or reason to it,” center Connor McDavid, who had two goals in the first meeting, told NHL.com. “We’ve played them hard. Last time was a good game, back and forth, and we found a way to get a win. I’m sure they’ll be itching to go just as much as we are. It’s a big one for both teams.”
It’s the first contest of a three-game West Coast trip for the Oilers, who then have a difficult back-to-back on Saturday and Sunday at improving Arizona and Colorado before returning home to host the red-hot Boston Bruins on Tuesday.
Edmonton enters Thursday night’s game in sixth place already trailing the Golden Knights by 28 points in the Pacific Division. The Oilers also trail Minnesota by 18 points for the second wild-card spot. Hence the talk that the Oilers could be dealing away some players in the next 12 days.
“We shouldn’t be talking about this. We should be adding (players) for a playoff run, but we have to own where we are,” center Mark Letestu, a 33-year-old unrestricted free agent, told Sportsnet.ca. “Guys are going to go and that’s part of the business.
“The obligation of the team is to get the best deal possible. I’ll go to any team and be a pro about it. I’m in a situation where I’m easy to move. I’m an expiring asset and there may be something they can get for me.”
One player who doesn’t have to worry about going anywhere is the 21-year-old McDavid, who is tied for third in the NHL in points (66) and has eight goals and four assists in six games this month.
“We’ve just got to keep going,” the reigning Hart Memorial and Art Ross Trophy winner said. “We had a good meeting today. Just regroup is all we can do. … We just have to keep doing everything right and grind away.”