EDMONTON, AB - Penguins. Hurricanes. Islanders.
Together in the same breath, the three Eastern Conference sides serve as opposition for the Oilers during their crucial upcoming road trip that begins Wednesday in Pittsburgh at the PPG Paints Arena.
"It's huge," Oilers forward Milan Lucic said Tuesday. "Obviously coming back from the break we're still not where we want to be, but that's why it makes this road trip so important. It's a big game tomorrow, and it's always nice to start off a road trip when you get that first win and gain some momentum."
The Oilers are 12-11-4 away from Rogers Place this NHL campaign and 1-0-2 on the road since the conclusion of the All-Star break. As the club chips away at the six-point deficit between themselves and the final Wild Card berth in the West, it's a continuous call to action for the players to find points in any way possible.
"We've got to probably be the most desperate team in the league right now," captain Connor McDavid said. "We've got to find ways to win games. It's on us so we've got to find a way to put together a good road trip here. We've been good on the road. We need to continue that."
Video: RAW | Milan Lucic 02.12.19
For Oilers Head Coach Ken Hitchcock, their previous three road games were the benchmark. Despite the two overtime losses coming from winning positions in the third period against Montreal and Philadelphia, the points gathered met the quota.
"What we have to look at is every time we play a three-game segment, we need four points," Hitchcock said. "If we do that, we'll get in. That's kind of as small as I want to make it. I talked to the players about that today and it's doable. It's more than doable, but that's what we've got to do.
"I just don't want to see "every man for himself" hockey. I don't want to see guys trying too hard or doing too much, I want to see us really sticking together as a group of five on the ice. We're built a certain way, and we've got three lines that have to keep the puck in front of them. When we play that way, we're effective."
The Oilers are winless in their last five games with Pittsburgh, but the matchups have been tightly-contested with the last seven meetings being decided by a single goal. Earlier this season on October 23, overtime was needed for Sidney Crosby to cap off a 6-5 thriller at Rogers Place.
Right-wing Alex Chiasson has extended experience against the Penguins as a member of the Washington Capitals last season, knowing full well the danger they pose and the challenge they'll create for the Oilers on Wednesday.
Video: RAW | Alex Chiasson 02.12.19
"Obviously last year I played Pittsburgh quite a bit and played them in playoffs. They're a team with a lot of experience and they're comfortable being in the position they're in now," Chiasson said. "It seems like every year this is the time of the year they raise their play, so this is going to be a good challenge for us."
Carolina, on the other side of the Wild Card race, have been flying in under the radar all season and are just three points back of the Penguins for the final spot in the East. The Islanders have been a revelation this season, owning top spot in the Metropolitan Division at 33-16-6 and 72 points through 55 games.
"You look at the standings every day, and especially where Pittsburgh and Carolina are they're teams fighting for a spot," Lucic said. "They're three points apart from one another so they're not going to be easy games as well. I don't think there's been a better team out east than the Islanders over the last little bit, so we definitely got our hands full as this road trip goes."