News, notes and more from Wednesday after four Oilers were named to rosters at the World Cup. We had reaction from Todd McLellan, Peter Chiarelli and Connor McDavid of Team North America, Lauri Korpikoski of Team Finland and Andrej Sekera and Leon Draisaitl of Team Europe.
PHILADELPHIA, PA - The Oilers are looking to make it three consecutive wins and secure seven of a possible eight points in their last four as they visit the Philadelphia Flyers tonight for the second matchup on a four-game road trip.
Edmonton, specifically their star rookie Connor McDavid, got the trip started with a bang on Tuesday, beating the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 in overtime. McDavid scored 22 seconds into the game and then picked up the sudden-death winner in dramatic fashion for his 12th goal and 31st point in his 28th NHL game.
Tuesday also marked one week since the Oilers suffered a disappointing 4-1 home loss to the Ottawa Senators, closing out a dismal six-game homestand that saw them collect just three of a possible 12 points. Since then, though, it’s been a completely different team that has clearly rediscovered its mojo.
They played back-to-back spirited road games against the two Southern California squads, returned home for a 3-1 win over the New York Islanders on Sunday and made it back-to-back wins with Tuesday’s OT thriller in Buffalo. They’ll look to continue their rejuvenated play against a tough, 29-22-11 Flyers squad.
“We let our identity get away from us for a little while,” said Head Coach Todd McLellan. “I think we’ve recaptured that over the last four games. The win happens at the end of the night… so most important for our group is the input into the game. Can we play towards a certain identity that we’ve preached and that we think we have to have for us to be successful? Then we’ll have a chance to keep winning games.”
Timely scoring and a commitment to defence have led to the team’s back-to-back victories, and they’ve surrendered just six goals against in their last four outings.
“If we can continue to be a scrappy team, then we have a chance,” McLellan said. “There’s way more tenacity in our group than there was in the games prior to that. The overall consistency from shift to shift has been better.”
MAROON TO MAKE DEBUT
The Oilers welcomed two new players to their lineup on Tuesday in Buffalo, with Monday’s waiver pickups Adam Pardy and Adam Cracknell debuting. Tonight they’ll add a third new face to the mix as Patrick Maroon makes his debut after the Oil acquired him at the trade deadline from the Anaheim Ducks.
Maroon met up with his new team on Tuesday afternoon in Buffalo, but was afforded some additional rest on account of his travel schedule and time-zone hopping. Thursday’s morning skate was his first time on the ice with his Oilers teammates, and he said he immediately felt the love.
“All the guys have made me feel welcome here,” he said. “It’s a good group of guys here, and it felt good to just get back on the ice. It’s been a long three days for me, and I’m excited for my new chapter.”
Maroon played 56 games for the Ducks this season prior to the trade, chipping in with four goals and nine assists. He had an outstanding playoff run last spring as well, scoring seven times and adding four helpers in 16 games as the Ducks advanced all the way to the Western Conference Final. He looks to continue that positive momentum in Oil Country.
“I’m really excited, it’s going to be a great opportunity for me,” he said. “Anaheim was really good to me, but they had to make some moves and I was the guy to go. I’m excited to become an Edmonton Oiler. This team is going to be really good in a few years. Just to be part of this rebuild, and the new stadium, is really exciting for me.”
Maroon will make his debut on a line with Mark Letestu and Lauri Korpikoski. He did get some looks in Anaheim’s top six during his tenure, and Coach McLellan said that will be the case in Edmonton as well, but for now the bench boss just wants his new player to settle in and get caught up.
“We just want him to feel comfortable,” McLellan said. “Will he move up? Will he move around? Of course he will, because we’re trying to adapt and adjust with a bunch of new players. Let’s let him get his feet wet, let’s let him feel comfortable and then we’ll figure out where he fits.”
SIZE & SKILL
The 27-year-old was actually drafted by tonight’s Oilers opponent, the Flyers, during the sixth round in 2007. Much of his success since then has come from his hard-to-defend combination of skill and size, as he towers over most opponents at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, using his big frame to help the team.
“I have pretty good hands for a big man,” Maroon said. “My job is to create space for my linemates, get to the net, create some havoc and hopefully we can get some goals.”
And coming from a divisional rival, the Oilers are happy to be playing with him now rather than against him.
“He’s a big body,” fellow winger Matt Hendricks said. “We’ve played a lot of hockey against him, and he’s a competitor. He plays a big man’s game. He’s as good as anyone at controlling the puck behind the net, holding on to pucks, getting pucks to the net and being that big horse that can just pile through players. I know how hard it is to defend him… I look for him to add a little bit more of that grit, more of that board play and offensive touch. We’ve all seen it, we know he has it.”
Here’s how the Oilers are projected to line up tonight against Philadelphia:
Season series: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored two goals in the Edmonton Oilers' 4-2 win against the Philadelphia Flyers at Rexall Place on Nov. 3. Oilers rookie center Connor McDavid sustained a broken left clavicle in the second period. Scott Laughton and Ryan White scored for the Flyers.
Oilers team scope: Edmonton had to scrap its practice plans for Wednesday in Philadelphia as weather issues forced the Oilers to stay overnight in Buffalo, according to the Edmonton Journal. They beat the Buffalo Sabres 2-1 in overtime Tuesday, with McDavid scoring the goals. His first came 22 seconds into the game, and his game-winner came with 1:12 remaining in overtime. "I think good players are just able to rise to the occasion," forward Jordan Eberle said Tuesday of McDavid. "Obviously scoring in your first shift and then ending it … it's a [heck] of a storybook ending. … For him at such an age to change the momentum and rise to the occasion, it's pretty impressive." The Oilers have won two straight for the first time since Feb. 2-4. They also ended a five-game road losing streak (0-4-1).
Flyers team scope: For Philadelphia, the Stanley Cup Playoffs already have started. "Right now every game is a playoff game for us," defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere told the Flyers website Wednesday. "We need points in every game." The Flyers have won three straight and are three points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for the final wild card into the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. "We're going to fight to get back into a playoff spot," forward Claude Giroux said. "There's no quitting in this team." Steve Mason could start in goal Thursday. In three games against the Oilers with the Flyers, he's 3-0-0 with a 1.95 goals-against average and .923 save percentage. Michal Neuvirth has started the past four games, going 3-1-0 with a 2.53 GAA and .907 save percentage. He made 29 saves in a 5-3 win Monday against the Calgary Flames.