NHL on NBCSN: Oilers believe there’s still time to change fortunes

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NBCSN’s coverage of the 2018-19 NHL season continues with Tuesday’s matchup between the Detroit Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

If you only read the headlines, you’d think that the Edmonton Oilers were heading for another spring hoping the NHL Draft Lottery balls bounce their way yet again. That may be the conclusion come April, but as of Tuesday morning they sit just three points out of a Western Conference wild card spot, which, looking how the Pacific Division is going, will be their only hope of playoff entry.

Monday was an eventful day in Edmonton with the team waiving preseason darling Ty Rattie, as well as Ryan Spooner, whom they acquired in November for Ryan Strome. Captain Connor McDavid also called on his team to be better as a critical period for the team continues ahead of the Feb. 25 trade deadline.

“We hear the boos and we hear the stuff that’s going on, but we understand the fans are frustrated,” McDavid said. “We expect better out of ourselves and they obviously expect better of us. We need to be better. … The only people that seem to believe in us are the guys in the locker room and we need to rally behind that.”

“If you don’t believe in this group and you’re in the locker room, then you need to leave. I don’t get that sense, I don’t feel that way. I think that everyone in there believes in each other and believes we’ll get it done.”

[WATCH LIVE – COVERAGE BEGINS AT 8 P.M. ET – NBCSN]

The Oilers are 14-13-2 since dismissing Todd McLellan and bringing Ken Hitchcock back out of retirement. That’s 30 out of a possible 58 points that’s kept them in the playoff mix. As general manager Peter Chiarelli surveys his trade options to try and make a push over the final 33 games of the season, he’s also working with the pressure of his job being on the line. Another playoff-spring or a first-round embarrassment will likely lead to major changes in Edmonton and another wasted year for McDavid.

Tuesday’s first-half finale against the Red Wings is an opportunity to rebound following a poor weekend that saw back-to-back losses to Calgary and Carolina by a combined score of 12-6. Their playoff hopes may just be a mirage and a true roster carving should happen, but with the pressures on Chiarelli at the moment the Oilers aren’t approaching the next few weeks that way, which could be to their detriment.

Ken Daniels (play-by-play) and Ray Ferraro (‘Inside-the-Glass’ analyst) will have the call from Rogers Place in Edmonton.

MORE: Oilers bet on Koskinen with three-year extension

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.