NHL Preview: Ottawa Senators vs Edmonton Oilers

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The Edmonton Oilers have a golden chance to feast on some home cooking. Starting with Wednesday’s clash against the Ottawa Senators, the Oilers have four straight, and five of six, home games on the schedule.

Despite having played 17 of their 29 games on the road so far this season, the Oilers sit atop the Pacific Division. The fact that four of the six upcoming opponents are outside of a playoff spot means an even bigger opportunity to string together wins.

“It’s nice to play at home. It’s nice we’re finally getting a little bit of practice time,” coach Dave Tippett told reporters. “We’ve hardly practiced at all lately, so that part of it is good. The other part of it, I like the way we play on the road most nights. It’s a hard, tenacious game and we need to bring that game home.”

The Oilers last played on Sunday when they snapped a two-game skid with a 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks — the last in a stretch of six of seven games on the road.

“It’s been crazy, but a lot of teams are in the same boat. November’s a busy month,” captain Connor McDavid, the NHL’s First Star of the Month, said Tuesday. “Obviously we’re coming off a long road trip, and it’ll be nice to spend some time at home here.”

The busy stretch has taken its toll on Edmonton. The good news is that goalie Mike Smith should be able to suit up, even as a backup, after missing last game due to a leg injury, but the club will be without forwards Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (hand) and Zack Kassian (back), as well as defenseman Matt Benning, who was hit in the head by a puck on Sunday, his first game back from a concussion.

The Senators arrive in Edmonton on the heels of a 5-2 loss in Vancouver on Tuesday, a game in which the Canucks built a 4-0 lead before the first intermission.

“You can’t give them four goals in the first period. We were certainly flat,” coach DJ Smith said. “They capitalized on every chance. We had a lot of chances in the first period and didn’t capitalize. I loved our effort after that, but it’s losing hockey when you spot them four and turn it on after that. We have to take that into (Wednesday) and play with some energy.”

Nobody will disagree that the Senators must play with more spark and fervor against the Oilers, but their problems don’t end there. Ottawa is on a five-game skid in which it has been outscored 18-6, and certainly can’t afford to let the Oilers go wild offensively.

“We probably had more chances offensively than we’ve had in a month tonight, but unfortunately we weren’t as good defensively as we usually are,” Smith said. “That sometimes happens, you concentrate on one thing and another thing goes. We have to play defensively to have success.”

“This team doesn’t have success unless we play hard,” Smith added. “The first period, we were watching. Give them credit, they came out jumping … and to get a goal on the second shift had them fired up and had us on our heels. That’s part of being a young team and figuring that out, but we’ll be better (in Edmonton).”