Edmonton Oilers coach Ken Hitchcock recently remarked that a tough stretch of the schedule will give an accurate reading of the state of the team.
There are still some bumps in the road, but there were some lessons learned, too.
Looking to extend a winning streak at Rogers Place, the Oilers square off against the sputtering Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night.
Last Saturday, Hitchcock said the “next three games are going to tell us a lot of the things that we’re good at and the things we need to work on.”
Hours later, Edmonton defeated the Calgary Flames, 1-0, in the Battle of Alberta. Two days later, the Oilers traveled to the Denver and topped the high-powered Colorado Avalanche, 6-4. On Thursday, Hitchcock’s club erased a two-goal deficit in the second period but fell to the Winnipeg Jets, 5-4 in overtime.
“We have not, as a group, have not been even close to being involved in stuff like this and these are great lessons for us moving forward as long as we take them,” Hitchcock said.
Since Hitchcock took over on Nov. 20, Edmonton (17-12-3) has won all five games at Rogers Place by a combined score of 14-5. In the first nine home games this season under Todd McLellan, the Oilers went 4-4-1 with a 29-28 scoring advantage.
Hitchcock is 8-2-2 with Edmonton, which is five points behind Pacific Division-leading Calgary.
“We need the points (but) I look at the way we’re playing,” Hitchcock said.
The Oilers were swept in the season series in 2017-18 and have dropped three of the last four matchups with Philadelphia. Edmonton has surrendered one power-play goal in each of the last four meetings with the Flyers.
But the Oilers will face a team unable to keep the puck out of the net recently.
After giving up seven goals in a loss to the Jets on Sunday, the Flyers surrendered two goals in the final 1:08 of regulation and the game-winner 35 seconds into overtime of a 6-5 defeat to Calgary.
“We’ve got to find a way to reset,” winger Dale Weise told NBC Sports Philadelphia. “It’s embarrassing.”
While Philadelphia (12-13-4) made a change off-ice by firing general manager Ron Hextall on Nov. 26, the team is still struggling. The Flyers have gone 2-2-2 since Hextall’s ouster and sit in seventh place in the Metropolitan Division, two points ahead of the New Jersey Devils.
The team has yielded at least four goals four times since Chuck Fletcher took over in the front office. One of his first chores should be an upgrade in goal.
With Brian Elliott injured and Michal Neuvirth away from the team as his wife prepares to give birth, Philadelphia is going with the tandem of Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon, who was recalled Thursday. The pair have combined for a total of 26 games, including 17 starts.
Stolarz allowed 10 goals in his last two appearances and has an .889 save percentage through seven games, but coach Dave Hakstol seems willing to let him learn by doing.
“He’s a young guy in terms of games in the NHL,” Hakstol told Philly.com. “And there’s a lot of things that he continues to work at. We don’t want to put too much on his plate that way. Just go out and continue to build his game.”
Mikko Koskinen is expected to start in the second of back-to-back games and looks to continue his stellar play on home ice for Edmonton. In seven games (six starts), Koskinen has surrendered just six goals while recording three shutouts.