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Islanders, Oilers turn focus to finishing strong

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- With the NHL Trade Deadline behind them, the Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders have shifted their focus, trying to finishing disappointing seasons off strong.

The Oilers host the Islanders at Rexall Place on Thursday with each team out of the race for the Stanley Cup Playoffs and having traded away key players the day before. The Oilers traded forward Ales Hemsky to the Ottawa Senators while the Islanders made a late deal, sending forward Thomas Vanek to the Montreal Canadiens.

"We knew what the situation was going into the deadline," Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo said. "We knew who was going to move, although it's never an easy thing. Now that it's over, we can just kind of focus on playing."

The Islanders head into the game having snapped a two-game losing skid with a win against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday in the first of a four-game road trip.

"There is a lot of motivation heading towards the end of the year," Okposo said. "We're professional hockey players, we play in the best League in the world and any time you get to come to the rink and lace them up, it's a privilege and an honor, and we have to accept the challenge. We know where we are and the standing that we're in. It's never an easy thing to come play when you're not fighting for a playoff spot. But you have to come to the rink, be professional and try to be better."

The Oilers are attempting to be better by making changes in goal. They acquired Viktor Fasth from the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday and welcomed the new goaltender into their dressing room Thursday.

Fasth will not get the start against the Islanders, instead backing up Ben Scrivens. He was on a conditioning stint with the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League when he was traded to the Oilers.

"He hasn't skated that much," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "He said he did four laps around the ice before practice the other day and he was told he was being traded. He's been traveling.

"He got the morning skate in, he'll get warm-up in and I just asked him to prepare to play the next game [Sunday against the Los Angeles Kings]. It's not guaranteed he'll play, but that's what I'd like to do."

The Oilers enter having won six of their previous 10 games. They snapped a three-game winless skid against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday.

There was a more relaxed feel in their dressing room as well.

"It's always like that the day after the deadline," Eakins said. "Guys know firmly where they stand, they see who's new in the dressing room and who is gone, and it's over. There is no running to check your phone to see if your buddy has been traded or who's coming in.

"I did feel like it was a little bit like starting anew [Thursday] morning."

Here are the projected lineups for the Oilers and the Islanders.


Michael GrabnerFrans NielsenKyle Okposo

Josh BaileyBrock NelsonCal Clutterbuck

Anders LeeRyan StromeColin McDonald

Mike HalmoCasey CizikasMatt Martin

Thomas HickeyLubomir Visnovsky

Calvin de HaanTravis Hamonic

Brian StraitMatt Donovan

Evgeni Nabokov

Anders Nilsson

Scratched: Radek Martinek, Matt Carkner, Eric Boulton

Injured: John Tavares (knee)


Taylor HallSam GagnerNail Yakupov

David PerronRyan Nugent-HopkinsJordan Eberle

Matt HendricksBoyd GordonRyan Jones

Luke GazdicRyan SmythJesse Joensuu

Andrew FerenceMark Fraser

Martin MarincinJeff Petry

Philip LarsenJustin Schultz

Ben Scrivens

Viktor Fasth

Scratched: None

Injured: Anton Belov (abdominal)

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