Next steps for the Oilers' rebuild

Updated: March 18, 2013, 2:22 PM ET
By Craig Custance

It was a loss that suggested that maybe the expectations for the Oilers this season were too high. Winding down a grueling nine-game road trip, Edmonton was blown out 6-0 on March 8 by a Predators team that had scored one goal or fewer in five of the previous six games.

It was ugly, and the Oilers' response was crucial. All they did next was become the first team all season to beat the Blackhawks in regulation at home, putting up six on Chicago.

"Since Chicago, there's been a different swagger in the group, a different belief," Oilers coach Ralph Krueger said on Sunday during his postgame news conference.

If the Oilers make the playoffs, that might be the season-defining game. They've got San Jose next on Wednesday and their win over the Predators on Sunday pulled them to within just two points of the Sharks in the No. 8 spot.

One NHL scout was surprisingly optimistic about Edmonton's playoff chances simply because of their schedule. Edmonton has played 16 road games and just 10 home games this season. In the tight Western Conference, that remaining home-friendly schedule could be the difference.

"They're not bad, I think they've got a chance to make it," he said. "If they play well at home. There's such a logjam after Chicago and Anaheim. Any other team is going to have a chance to get in."

If the Oilers make the playoffs, it's an indication that everything is on schedule in Steve Tambellini's rebuild in Edmonton. If they don't, it's a sign that perhaps it's not being run by the right group. But winning consistently is not the only big test for the rebuilding of the Oilers. There's still roster construction that needs to be finalized.

To read more from Craig Custance, sign up for ESPN Insider today.