EDMONTON, AB - After a disappointing third period on home ice against the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday, the Oilers answered in a big way on the road in Minnesota to defeat the Wild 4-1 and keep themselves firmly in the race for one the Western Conference's coveted Wild Card spots.
"We needed to respond as a team and we did that for the whole 60 minutes," Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who had two assists in Thursday's win, said Friday afternoon. "Tomorrow night is going to be another tough challenge. These guys always come out firing at the start of the game so we need to be prepared for that and play 60 minutes like we did last time."
Video: RAW | Ryan Nugent-Hopkins 02.08.19
The Oilers return to Rogers Place tomorrow against the San Jose Sharks where fortunes haven't been bountiful as of late, losing four straight and holding a 2-10-0 record in their last 12 games on home ice.
The Sharks are the NHL's top team in the opening frame with a plus-17 goal differential and have won three-straight games away from home. Stifling the Shark attack early in the first period will be a priority for an Oilers team keen to reverse their fortunes in front of fans.
"The big thing at home is the start in establishing momentum and taking control of the game right from the get-go," Nugent-Hopkins said. "You want to make it tough on other teams to come into your building, and that starts right off the bat and gets the fans into it. Then we can rally behind each other there."
Oilers Head Coach Ken Hitchcock noted his side are more self-assured on the road, sticking to the game plan with greater detail when playing the role of visiting opposition.
"You don't want to say that you want to bring your road game home, but I'd say we get caught up in being something that we're not at home. So we have to figure that out," Hitchcock said.
Video: RAW | Ken Hitchcock 02.08.19
The Oilers are 12-11-4 away from home, counter to a 12-14-1 record at Rogers Place.
"Sometimes you go through seasons where it's more comfortable winning on the road," Hitchcock said. "We've got a good road record and we play a different game on the road. We get impatient at home and don't stay on task at times, and it hurts us."
For Hitchcock, sometimes a bunt single down the baseline with a man on third is better than swinging for the fence - especially against tough opposition in the Sharks, who've scored 17 goals against the Oilers in three games this season.
"The team we're playing tomorrow is as good as there is in the NHL and playing probably as well as anyone. We've got our work cut out for us tomorrow just to be competitive," he continued. "I'd like to see us play with more grit in the right areas rather than trying to hit home runs. The one thing we do really well on the road is not try and hit home runs, and at home we're trying to do that and it gets away from us sometimes."