Go!Forget that the Edmonton Oilers will be playing their first game in 10 days.Forget that when they return to action, covered in sun-baked rust after their bye-week vacations, they run straight into back-to-back afternoon games in Philadelphia and Montreal.Forget that the last time we saw them, they were a train wreck, firing the general manager after giving up 15 goals in three straight losses at home.And forget that they are 1-6 this season when returning to action after a break of three or more days.It’s a sprint to the finish in the Western Conference wildcard chase and the Oilers have to be at top speed right out of the blocks. Ease their way back into the season and it will be over before the trade deadline.In returning to work Thursday evening for the first time since general manager Peter Chiarelli was fired, the Oilers said the onus is on them now to make up for it with a strong finish.“We’ve played our way out of a coach and we’ve played our way out of a GM now, so it’s obviously on us,” said captain Connor McDavid, well aware of how urgent their situation is.‘The playoff race started a month ago for us. We’re right in the thick of it. There are a lot of teams there, but somebody has to pull away.”Three points out of a playoff spot with 32 games to go might sound like a relatively comfortable position, but it’s not. While three points sounds tantalizing close, points are not the obstacle anymore: Teams are.By stumbling their way to the all-star break, the wildcard contenders opened the door for Arizona and St. Louis to join the fight. Now there are seven teams competing for two positions.On any given night, one or more of those six other teams is collecting points. You win a game, somebody else wins, too. You lose a game, somebody else wins. You sit idle, somebody else wins.Mathematically, Edmonton has about a 28 per-cent chance of making it, which means there is a 72 per-cent chance they miss. The Oilers are betting on themselves, though.“We’re still in this race,” said winger Milan Lucic. “I’m not just saying that; I believe in this group and I truly believe we’re going to get ourselves back in it.”It’s going to take a lot of consistently strong hockey, something Edmonton hasn’t played a lot of, to separate themselves from the pack. They’ve shown an ability to get red-hot for a while, having gone 8-2-1 twice, but lags in their season of 2-7-1 on and 2-8-1 wiped away all the progress.Now it’s a sprint, with zero breathing room.“This is 32 playoff games,” said head Ken Hitchcock. “There are going to be some real highs and some real lows. We have to tread water and when we get on a run, we have to run it all the way and go as far as we can with it. That’s what’s going to happen, a couple of teams are going to get on a run here.“We’ve been on two of those runs before and we need one more to get right into the middle of the race.”Whether they’re right on the doorstep or in a tough spot is a matter of opinion, but opinion doesn’t matter anymore. It will all play itself out over the next few weeks.“We see this as a fresh start to come together and hopefully win some games here in the beginning,” said defenceman Oscar Klefbom, who hopes to be back in the lineup this weekend. “Every game is going to be a like a playoff game. We really need to get together as a group and get a point or two every night.”It’s not going to be easy. The Oilers will still be shaking sand out of their ears from their bye-week vacations, in back-to-back afternoon games on the road. Their first stop is in Philadelphia, where the Flyers will be playing their fourth game since the all-star break.“There’s a distinct advantage for the team that’s already played,” said Hitchcock. “We’re behind the 8-ball just on the Philadelphia game. We’re going to have to play catch up.”Late hits: Andrej Sekera, who’s been out all year recovering from a torn Achilles in the off-season, also went through the full practice Thursday and is marching closer to a return. The Oilers will have to decide what to do with him next, although a few games in Bakersfield seems the obvious play.“His next stage is to decide where and when he’s going to play games,” said Hitchcock.E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.orgOn Twitter: @Rob_TychkowskiLatest Oil Spills podcast: Playoffs or bust for the Oilers?With Peter Chiarelli out and Keith Gretzky in, for the interim, as general manager, the Edmonton Oilers have an existential question to ask of themselves: Are they really all in on making the 2019 NHL playoffs — which would surely mean trading away future prospects in the form of young players or draft picks — or are they willing to ride through the storm, no matter the cost?Subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, Google Play or Soundcloud. You can also listen via the player below.