So, that’s zero goals over the last two pre-season games for the Edmonton Oilers.
If you want to roll the clock all the way back to the last time they scored it was Dylan Holloway at 14:51 of the third period Sept. 25 against Winnipeg — 125 minutes and nine seconds worth of game time ago.
Since then it was a 3-0 loss in Seattle and 4-0 loss in Calgary.
“There are things we can do better offensively, for sure,” admitted head coach Jay Woodcroft.
Sure. Like playing Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl, Evander Kane, Zach Hyman, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Darnell Nurse. So far none of Edmonton’s big guns have put a blade to ice in the exhibition schedule as Woodcroft focuses on the bubble players.
That’s why nobody is all that worried about the scoring drought. Still, though, on a team that is placing a greater emphasis on secondary scoring, and will need it if they happen to go on another playoff run, Woodcroft would like to see a little more production from further down the lineup.
“Obviously, there is room for improvement when you didn’t score a goal on the road,” he said, adding it hasn’t been for lack of scoring chances. “We did have a lot of chances in both games. We lacked some finishers in the lineup, but there are some tactics and things we’re focusing on to draw a little more offence out of the whole group.”
As for the players on the top two lines, Woodcroft says they have a good sense of what they need and when, so he will give them a large say in their pre-season schedule.
“They know their bodies and what they need to get ready,” he said. “It starts with me asking questions and creating a dialogue with players. Some people want a little bit more, some people might only need a few.
“It’s about talking through that. It’s also about balancing their wants with the needs of the team.”
With only five pre-season games left, and most veterans wanting to get in about three, the Oilers will be rolling out McDavid and Draisaitl very soon. Coaches normally save their best players for the fans at home, so expect the stars to shine at Rogers Place in Friday’s rematch with the Flames.
“We have a lot of people who I know have not played yet in the pre-season,” said Woodcroft, who still hasn’t given newly acquired starting goalie Jack Campbell a game. “They’ve put in a lot of work in practice. I think they’re probably sick of practising and ready to get going. That’s a good thing, too, when you really have a desire to play in pre-season.
“So, that stuff will play itself out over the last five games.”
In an effort to get a head-start on cohesion and structure, Woodcroft split training camp into two groups — one comprised of veterans and bubble players and the other made up of depth players. They practise separately.
But the coach cautioned against jumping to conclusions based on which group a player is in.
“We’ve got some really good performances from individuals people might consider depth pieces but are staking a claim here to earn a full-time spot,” he said. “But, in the end, you can’t practise with 35 or 40 people on the ice at the same time and get something meaningful accomplished.
“So we decided to get down to five lines, 10 D and two goalies. That means there is another group, but we’ve let them know that doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a starting point for practice. What’s most important is how people show during games.”
Now is not the time for anyone to take a breath.
“We’ve had some people rise to the occasion,” said Woodcroft. “We’ve had some others who need to rise to the occasion, especially as camp narrows. We are three pre-season games in and the runway is getting shorter by the day. Every day counts.”
Veteran defenceman Brett Kulak likes that the practice groups are smaller and the chemistry is getting a chance to build.
“It’s good to be starting to play with the guys you’re familiar with,” he said, adding it also helps get everyone used to some of the expected changes. “Some guys have new linemates and new D partners, so it’s good to be working with them.
“We know that the start of the season is very important and camp happens quick. You have to take advantage of every day.”
LATE HITS — The Oilers sent right winger Matvey Petrov back to North Bay in the OHL, where he had 90 points in 63 games last year … The Oilers also sent forward Ty Tulio and goaltender Ryan Fanti to Bakersfield and released training camp invitees Filip Engaras, Dino Kambeitz, Darian Kielb and Yanni Kaldis. They will also report to Bakersfield.
On Twitter: @Rob_Tychkowski