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Pacific Division notebook

Oilers goalie Cam Talbot embracing heavy workload; Kings fighting obstacles to remain in playoff contention

by Tim Campbell @TimNHL / Staff Writer

EDMONTON -- Don't tell Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot that he's overworked. Or that he can't keep up the pace.

Talbot, who has the most starts (51), most saves (1,365) and faced the most shots (1,484) in the NHL this season, doesn't want to hear it.

"I feel like there have been guys who have done it before so why not me?" said Talbot, who is on pace to start 73 games.

Martin Brodeur holds the NHL record for starts in a season with 78 in 2006-07. Two seasons ago, Braden Holtby of the Washington Capitals started 72 games and Jonathan Quick of the Los Angeles Kings started 71.

Talbot, 29, feels he can keep up his pace. The Caledonia, Ontario, native is 28-16-7 with a 2.36 goals-against average, .920 save percentage and five shutouts.

"As long as my body holds up and I continue to feel good, and they give us the rest we need -- the coaching staff has been really good about that, with optionals and a break away from the ice when we need it -- as long as I can stay mentally focused and refreshed off the ice, I don't see any reason I can't keep it up," Talbot said.

The signs that Talbot could handle a workload were there last season. With his first opportunity as a No. 1 goalie he started 53 games, going 21-27-5 with a 2.55 GAA and .917 save percentage for an Oilers team that did not make the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

He was traded by the New York Rangers to the Oilers on June 27, 2015. In two seasons as a backup for the Rangers, Talbot won 33 games in 53 starts (2.00 GAA, .931 save percentage).

Video: ARI@EDM: Talbot stones McGinn, Burmistrov early

"I loved my time in New York," Talbot said. "I learned a lot. I had some time to develop there and learn from one of the best in the world, and when I got my opportunity I think it made me a better goalie for it."

After Rangers starter Henrik Lundqvist was injured on Feb. 2, 2014, Talbot went 17-5-3 with a 2.22 GAA and .926 save percentage in 25 starts to prove he could be a No. 1 goalie.

"This feels great to be the go-to guy and to have the support of my teammates night in and night out," Talbot said. "It feels pretty surreal. You work your whole career to get to this point to be the go-to guy and when you finally get that opportunity and you can take it and play pretty well, it feels great."

Talbot's consistency has been a big factor for the Oilers and his burden for the rest of the season may not be the obstacle some fear.

The Oilers have a six-game road trip from Feb. 18-28, but in March they have 11 well-spaced home games and two road games, a back-to-back at the Anaheim Ducks and Colorado Avalanche on March 22-23.

Video: ARI@EDM: Talbot turns away Dvorak's backhand

Talbot will continue to monitor his energy level and how he feels.

"I'm probably playing the best hockey of my career right now," he said. "I feel more comfortable and confident than I've ever felt. I want to play every night. Whenever [coach] Todd [McLellan] comes up to me, it's like, 'If it's a question, you know the answer.'

"He'll come and say, 'Talbs, I know you want to play every day but how does your body feel?' I say, 'I feel good but if you want to give me the night off, that's your prerogative. But I want to play every night until you guys take me out of the net.' "

Kings remain a factor

The Kings have remained in the hunt for a postseason berth despite facing all kinds of obstacles this season.

The schedule has been an extraordinary challenge -- a nine-game road trip (Dec. 13-29) and another stretch of nine of 10 on the road (Jan. 21-Feb. 9) -- and not all of general manager Dean Lombardi's moves have paid off.

The Kings have significant contracts buried in the minors, according to Forward Teddy Purcell and defenseman Rob Scuderi were demoted to Ontario of the American Hockey League. Right wing Devin Setoguchi was assigned to Ontario after clearing waivers Monday.

Defenseman Tom Gilbert, also with Ontario, was traded to the Capitals for future considerations Wednesday.

Other things Lombardi had no control over, like Quick's injury in the first period of the first game of the regular season, have also challenged the Kings.

Video: LAK@FLA: Carter rifles rebound past Reimer

And yet through all their struggles, the Kings have kept in touch with the pack in the Pacific Division and Western Conference, and their experience as Stanley Cup champions in 2012 and 2014 could well be a factor.

With 60 points, they trail the Calgary Flames by one point for the second wild card into the playoffs from the west.

When the Kings return from their five-day break for a game against the Arizona Coyotes at Staples Center on Thursday (10:30 p.m. ET; FS-W, FS-A, NHL.TV), some things appear to be turning in their favor.

Los Angeles has the most home games remaining, 17, of any team in the Western Conference. Of its 10 remaining road games, one is in the Central time zone and the other nine are in the Mountain or Pacific time zones, so travel will be much less onerous than earlier in the season.

And Quick, the 2012 Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP, is progressing toward a return in late February or early March.

Stat pack

Teams were 3-8-1 in their first game back from the five-day break. The Flames were the most recent to struggle with this assignment, losing 5-0 at home against the Coyotes on Monday. ... Brent Burns of the Sharks leads all defensemen with 231 shots on goal. That's 57 more than the next defenseman, Dustin Byfuglien of the Winnipeg Jets. ... Veteran Oilers defenseman Kris Russell, who has missed the past three games with a lower-body injury, leads the League with 3.0 blocked shots per game… The Kings continue to lead the League in games decided in the five-minute 3-on-3 overtime period, at 10-1. … Coyotes goalie Mike Smith is 6-0-3 when facing 40 or more shots.

Video: FLA@SJS: Burns scorches a wrister past Luongo

Games to watch

San Jose Sharks at Arizona Coyotes (Feb. 18, 8 p.m. ET; FS-A, CSN-CA, NHL.TV) -- The first-place Sharks go against the seventh-place Coyotes, but will they be focused on Smith? Smith is 2-0-1 with a 1.93 GAA and .953 save percentage against San Jose this season.

Calgary Flames at Vancouver Canucks (Feb. 18, 10 p.m. ET; CBC, SN, NHL.TV) -- Division rivals are still battling for a playoff position in the late game of Hockey Night in Canada. It's the first home game for the Canucks following a six-game road trip.

Edmonton Oilers at Chicago Blackhawks (Feb. 18, 7 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN, WGN, NHL.TV) -- A game with Western Conference consequences will be the rubber match for 2016-17. The teams split a pair of one-sided games in Edmonton, the Oilers won 5-0 on Nov. 21 and the Blackhawks won 5-1 on Feb. 11. This game starts Edmonton's six-game road trip through the Central and Eastern time zones. The Blackhawks come to this game off a scheduled break of six days.

Los Angeles Kings at Anaheim Ducks (Feb. 19, 9 p.m. ET; PRIME, FS-W, NHL.TV) -- The California rivals have three games against each other remaining this season. They also play in Los Angeles on Feb. 25 and in Anaheim on April 9.

San Jose Sharks at Vancouver Canucks (Feb. 25, 10 p.m. ET; CBC, SN1, CSN-CA, NHL.TV) -- The Sharks return from their five-day break to play the Canucks, who are trying to stay relevant in the Pacific Division and Western Conference wild-card race.

Los Angeles Kings at Calgary Flames (Feb. 28, 9 p.m. ET; SN1, FS-W, NHL.TV) -- The division rivals have played once this season, a 5-0 win by Peter Budaj and the Kings in Los Angeles on Nov. 5. The Kings and Flames have four games remaining, this one plus two more in Calgary (March 19 and 29) and one in Los Angeles (April 6).

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