3 things to watch for as Oilers head out for three-game West coast trip

As the Oilers prepare to return to action on Thursday night, we look at three things which will help shape their road trip out West to California.

Edmonton Oilers v New Jersey Devils
Edmonton Oilers v New Jersey Devils / Bruce Bennett/GettyImages
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We hope the Oilers are enjoying the holidays and a much-needed break. Thanks to how the schedule was put together, they are reaping the benefits of five days without a game.

However, we imagine the players will be eager to get back to action and start winning with more consistency, following a 15-15-1 start to their season. This challenge will begin with three games out West to California.

The Oilers have been particularly poor on the road so far in 2023-24, with a 6-9-0 record. Just last season they were so strong on their travels, that they actually had a better record on the road compared to at home.

Regardless, the Oilers really do need to come out of the Christmas break with some positive results. Here are three things to watch for, during the three games on the West coast:

1) Returning to the scene of the season's lowest point

Some would suggest half joking and half serious, that opening night in Vancouver was the lowest point of the season. And certainly, getting humiliated 8-1 versus the Canucks after entering this season as Stanley Cup favourites was a horrific start to the 2023-24 campaign.

However, we would argue the 3-2 lose in San Jose was the lowest and most humiliating point, and not just because it ultimately cost Jay Woodcroft his job. It also represented losing to the worst team in the NHL and finishing the game tied for the fewest points in the league with said worst team.

If nothing else, once you hit rock bottom there's only one way to go. Even though the players were to blame for Woodcroft losing his job, the 3-2 defeat did also serve as a wake-up call for the team, as well as a turning point.

The addition of Kris Knoblauch also served as a boost for the team, with him providing a new (and different) energy, ideas and focus. Since the lose in San Jose, the Oilers are 13-6-0, including 12-6-0 under their new coach.

Now, the Oilers return to the scene of the crime, looking for revenge versus the Sharks. And wouldn't you know it, the team from San Jose find themselves tied at the bottom of the NHL standings with the Blackhawks for fewest points, but also with easily the worst goal difference in the league.

You really would like to think the Oilers will produce a more positive result this time around, even accounting for how streaky and unpredictable they've been so far this season. For what it's worth, they won 7-1 and 6-1 respectively last season at SAP Center with essentially the same roster.