ANAHEIM, CA - The Oilers will look to go two-for-two with their moms in attendance when they open their two-game road trip against the Anaheim Ducks tonight.
The trip portion of the Moms Trip started yesterday when the team flew from Edmonton to Southern California; however, most of the special guests were in attendance on Friday at Rogers Place when the Oilers blanked the New Jersey Devils 4-0.
"It's awesome to have the moms here," said Darnell Nurse, whose mother Cathy is part of the group that will visit Anaheim and San Jose. "We're very fortunate to be able to share this trip with them."
DE-FENCE *CLAP CLAP*
Even though Edmonton's 1-0 shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets technically counted as a shutout for Mike Smith, Friday's win over the Devils was the team's first true goose egg of the season as Mikko Koskinen turned aside all 29 shots he faced.
The win that bumped the Oilers up to 11-5-2 may have been their first real shutout of 2019-20, but they've been keeping the puck out of their net on a regular basis this year, currently ranking fifth in the NHL in goals against per game at 2.50.
"First and foremost, we've had solid goaltending," Head Coach Dave Tippett said of Koskinen, who will start again vs. Anaheim and sports a 6-1-1 record, 2.18 GAA and .927 save percentage, as well as Smith, who is 5-4-1 with a 2.22 GAA and .926 save percentage.
"Both guys have played well. Our PK has been solid most of the year. And just our overall mindset… the players recognize you can't be on the bottom end of goals against and expect to be a playoff team. That's not reality. There's a mindset to keep goals against down and it's a combination of things. So far, so good, but we have to continue to work at it."
Two of Edmonton's veteran leaders on the back end, Darnell Nurse and Oscar Klefbom, echoed their coach's sentiments that the team has made a conscious commitment to defence.
"A lot of that goes into the buy-in that our group has had," Nurse said of the goals-against statistic. "We're a team that, for a long time now, has had a lot of great offensive weapons, but the buy-in to the defensive and checking side of the game hasn't been enough. We've been buying in and it shows. When you're keeping pucks out of your own net, it gives your offence an opportunity to capitalize."
"Both our goalies have been playing really good for us," Klefbom added. "When you have two goalies playing really good, you get confidence on the back end and I think we've been playing some really good defence overall. It's just the first quarter of a long season and we're off to a really good start, but we want to continue doing what we're doing."
IF IT AIN'T BROKE…
Of note on Sunday, the Ducks did not have a morning skate and have not played a game since they dropped a 4-2 decision to the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday. Conversely, the Oilers opted for an up-tempo morning session that included some three-on-three and two-on-two battle drills.
"It's the mindset of where you have to be," Tippett said. "Support in our own end is one of the staples of our game that we have to continue to work at every day, it doesn't matter if it's a game day."
With an earlier game time today and an impressive performance against the Devils to build upon, Tippett and his staff could have potentially opted for a lighter morning skate, but the bench boss shared his philosophy on keeping their noses to the grindstone.
"There's an old saying that if it's not broke, don't fix it, but I go by if it's not broke, you haven't looked hard enough," Tippett smiled. "There's lots to improve on here yet."
Nurse said a big reason for the team's success so far this season has been that day-to-day workmanlike methodology.
"In this league, there's only one goal and until you get to that goal, you can't be satisfied," he said. "That's the approach we've had so far this year. We've got to continue to improve our game, because as the season goes on, games ramp up and teams continue to get better. You've got to stay on that same page or you get left behind. We've got to continue to grow, because the games continue to get more important."
The Oilers will roll out the exact same lineup that posted the 4-0 victory over the Devils on Friday.
Nurse - Bear Klefbom - Persson K. Russell - Benning
-- Ryan Frankson, EdmontonOilers.com
OILERS (11-5-2) at DUCKS (9-7-1)
TV: 7:08 p.m. MT; Televised on Sportsnet One
This will be the first of four meetings between the Oilers and Ducks this season.
The Oilers will wait until February 25 for the second meeting back in Anaheim, with the season series culminating in two home games in a week for the Oilers against the Ducks at Rogers Place on March 23 and 29.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers received goals from four separate players and a 29-save shutout from Mikko Koskinen in Friday's 4-0 blanking of the New Jersey Devils that ended a mini two-game slide for the team and keeps them atop the Pacific Division standings with an 11-5-2 record and 24 points.
Depth scoring had been discussed at length by the players throughout the days leading up to their previous clash. Alex Chiasson notched his first goal of the season against New Jersey and Joel Persson recorded the first two NHL assists. Gaëtan Haas now has goals in two of his past three games after scoring his first in the League in a Monday loss to the Arizona Coyotes.
Leon Draisaitl is currently riding an eight-game point streak (eight goals, six assists) - the second time this season the German has had a streak of eight games. Connor McDavid needs just one point to record the 400th of his career.
Ducks team scope:
The Ducks were flying high, up 2-0 against the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday, until it all collapsed. The Wild rattled off four straight goals to come from behind and win 4-2, handing Anaheim its third-straight loss on home ice.
Tonight's hosts will have had four full days to contemplate the defeat and prepare for a visit from the Oilers in the fourth game of their extended six-game home stand.
Winger Jakob Silfverberg leads the Ducks in points with seven goals and six assists in 17 games, while centre Adam Henrique holds the club's outright lead in goals with eight. Goaltender John Gibson is 6-7-0 with a 2.55 goals-against average and .923 save percentage.
By the Numbers:
The Ducks are 4-for-42 (9.5 percent) on the power-play this season and rank 30th in the League with the man advantage, scoring once on 12 opportunities in their last five games. ... The Oilers 27.5 percent efficiency on the power play is fifth in the NHL. ...
Both teams are 5-0-0 when leading after the first period this season. ... Despite being outshot 11 times this season, the Ducks are 9-2-0 in games where the opponent registers more shots. ...
OILERS - Adam Larsson (fractured right fibula) is on IR; Joakim Nygard (ribs) is on IR.
DUCKS - Ryan Kesler (hip) is on IR; Patrick Eaves (illness) is on IR; Josh Manson (lower body) is on IR.