EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Oilers sometimes wonder how things could be different if they played in the Eastern Conference.
Geography has been detrimental to the Oilers this season. They've struggled against Western Conference opponents, but have held their own against Eastern Conference teams.
The Oilers host the New York Rangers on Sunday with a 14-13-4 record against the East and 5-0-2 in their past seven games against teams from the Metropolitan Division. They are 12-26-5 against teams in their own conference.
"I think the record speaks for itself," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "Where we're at with our size and our strength, most of the teams in the East are built with the same size and strength. That's with my eyes and the feel of the game, not going to look at the stats pages, not looking at the height and weights. But I just feel that the teams in our conference, that are all at the top of the League as well, are built much differently than most of the Eastern Conference teams and us."
Despite sitting 29th in the NHL standings, the Oilers have wins against some of the top teams in the Eastern Conference. They have defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning and Rangers.
"I think it's safe to say there is a different style of play [in Eastern Conference] for the most part," Oilers left wing Taylor Hall said. "But just because we've had success doesn't mean it's going to lead into [Sunday]. There are a lot of really good things about this New York team that hopefully, we can match up well against. We just have to worry about our own game. For our team, we just have to worry about what we're doing and try to capitalize when we get chances."
In Edmonton's previous game in New York, left wing Nail Yakupov scored the winner for the Oilers in a 2-1 win against the Rangers on Feb. 6.
The Oilers go into the game Sunday having snapped a three-game losing streak with a 4-3 victory against the Anaheim Ducks on Friday. The Rangers lost 4-3 to the Calgary Flames on Friday in the first of a four-game road trip.
New York did not participate in a morning skate Sunday.
"These teams that we're seeing now, they're priming for the playoffs or they're in a fight to solidify a spot," Eakins said. "That game in New York, I thought we played well. I thought we got some goaltending and were able to strike when we had to. I expect to see a different Ranger team here [Sunday]. I think they've been playing at a much higher pace than what we saw that night. They're going to be coming hard with four lines and we have to be ready for that."
Goaltender Ben Scrivens will get the start for the Oilers. Goalie Cam Talbot is expected to start for the Rangers, who had a five-game win streak snapped in the loss to Calgary.
The Oilers will play with a forward short with Ryan Jones ruled out for the remainder of the season with a knee injury sustained in the win over the Ducks. The Oilers will dress seven defensemen instead.
Here are the expected lineups for the Oilers and Rangers:
Taylor Hall – Sam Gagner – David Perron
Anton Lander – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Jordan Eberle
Matt Hendricks – Boyd Gordon – Tyler Pitlick
Luke Gazdic – Ryan Smyth
Andrew Ference – Jeff Petry
Oscar Klefbom – Justin Schultz
Martin Marincin – Anton Belov
Scratched: Mark Fraser
Injured: G Viktor Fasth (neck), LW Nail Yakupov (ankle), RW Ryan Jones (knee), RW Jesse Joensuu (ankle).
Rick Nash – Derek Stepan – Daniel Carcillo
Carl Hagelin – Brad Richards – Martin St. Louis
Mats Zuccarello – Derick Brassard – Benoit Pouliot
Brian Boyle – Dominic Moore - Derek Dorsett
Ryan McDonagh – Dan Girardi
Anton Stralman – Marc Staal
Raphael Diaz – Kevin Klein
Scratched: Justin Falk, Ryan Haggerty, J.T. Miller
Injured: LW Chris Kreider (hand), D John Moore (concussion)