NEW YORK, NY - The Oilers will have at least one and as many as two new players dressed for tonight's road trip finale against the New York Islanders.
Anthony Stolarz, acquired from the Philadelphia Flyers for Cam Talbot on Friday night, has arrived in the Big Apple and will back up starting goaltender Mikko Koskinen, who will square off against the team that selected him 31st overall at the 2009 NHL Draft.
The Oilers made another move this morning, bringing forward Sam Gagner back to the organization with a trade that sent forward Ryan Spooner the other way to the Vancouver Canucks. Gagner, who had scored 37 points in 43 games on loan with the AHL's Toronto Marlies this season, could also be available to suit up tonight at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
"We get a goalie that's younger and we're glad he's part of our organization," Assistant General Manager Keith Gretzky said of last night's Stolarz acquisition. "He's a big guy and he's athletic."
At 25 years old, Stolarz is six years younger than Talbot and made 19 NHL appearances with the Flyers over the last three seasons, posting a 6-4-4 record with a 2.86 goals-against average and .911 save percentage. He's been superb in his last three starts, winning twice, dropping the other in a shootout and recording one shutout with a dazzling .948 save percentage.
"It's a new opportunity for me and it feels really good to be wanted," Stolarz said upon arrival at the team hotel in Manhattan. "I'm excited for a fresh start here."
Stolarz also carries a nominal cap hit of $761,250 compared to Talbot's $4.17 million, which frees up room for veteran blueliner Andrej Sekera's impending return from his conditioning assignment in Bakersfield and also allowed the Oilers to make the Gagner acquisition.
"We've liked Sam to be a part of our club," Gretzky said of bringing back the 29-year-old, who was originally selected sixth overall by Edmonton at the 2007 NHL Draft. "He can add experience in the locker room and we think he can help us on our power play."
Gagner posted five consecutive seasons with 41 or more points with the Oilers to start his NHL career, put up 38 points in 48 games during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign and had a career year with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2016-17, tallying 50 points.
"It's a great situation for us and for himself," Gretzky said of the veteran who can play centre or right wing. "He wants to play in the NHL and he's going to get an opportunity. I feel that he's going to help our hockey club."
Back to the task at hand, the Oilers will look to turn two strong efforts that resulted in defeats into a victory tonight against the Islanders to close out the road trip. Edmonton outshot Pittsburgh 39-34 during Wednesday's trip opener but lost 3-1, and then dominated Carolina 41-27 in the shot column last night but dropped an identical 3-1 decision.
"A lot of the stuff we're doing is working well for us," said Alex Chiasson, who had nine of the team's 80 shots over the last two games. "Obviously, it's frustrating when a lot of guys are getting that many quality chances. Caps off to the goalies who have played good games."
Speaking of goalies who have played good games, Koskinen has been steady between the pipes on this trip despite the defeats, turning aside 55 of the 60 shots he's faced. Tonight will be somewhat of an experiment for the towering netminder, as he's never started on back-to-back nights in his professional career.
"Our understanding is he's never played a back-to-back game in his life, so this is going to be very interesting," Head Coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We're excited to take a look at it... This will be a good test for him. We've played awful well in front of him… and we've got to continue to play well in front of him again so we don't get bombarded."
The Oilers placed defenceman Matt Benning on Injured Reserve to accommodate the addition of Gagner. Other than Koskinen starting in net, no other definitive lineup notes were provided by Hitchcock this morning as the bench boss said four players will have their status determined at pre-game warmup.
-- Ryan Frankson, EdmontonOilers.com
OILERS (24-28-5) at ISLANDERS (34-17-6)
TV: 5:00 p.m. MST; Televised on Sportsnet West and Sportsnet Pacific
Tonight's game is the first of two meetings between the two teams this season. Their second and final game against each other will be February 21.
Last season, the Oilers won both meetings by a score of 2-1. At Rogers Place, they won in overtime and at Barclay's Center they won in a shootout.
Of the three Oilers goals, McDavid had two and Draisaitl had one. Jordan Eberle and Thomas Hickey had the two Islanders goals.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers dropped the first two games on their three-game road swing with an eye to tonight's game to salvage the trip. They are seven points behind Minnesota for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference with a game in hand.
Following Friday's game, the club made a trade in acquiring goaltender Anthony Stolarz from the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for Cam Talbot. The 25-year-old Stolarz has appeared in 12 games for Philadelphia this season, with a 4-3-3 record, a 3.33 GAA and a .902 SV%.
Draisaitl's been on a tear. In his last nine games, he has 10 goals. he also has two assists for 12 points in that time frame. This stretch has seen him move into the top four in the NHL in goals with 34.
Islanders team scope:
The Islanders are having an unbelievable season. After losing captain and franchise player John Tavares to free agency this past offseason, they've found a way to come together under new general manager Lou Lamoriello and head coach Barry Trotz. They sit in first place in the Metropolitan Division with 74 points.
They've also been playing well recently with a 6-2-2 record in their last 10.
Mathew Barzal leads the way for the Isles with 49 points in 57 games. Anders Lee leads the team in goals with 18. Former Oiler Jordan Eberle has 13 goals and 26 points in 53 games.
Both goaltenders have been outstanding. Robin Lehner is 17-9-4 in 31 appearances with a 2.08 goals-against average and .929 save percentage. Thomas Greiss is 17-8-2 with a 2.20 GAA and .930 SV%.
By the Numbers:
Milan Lucic leads the Oilers in career points against the Islanders with 28 points (12G, 16A) in 31 games. No other Oilers skater has more than eight points (that would be Chiasson with two goals and six assists for eight points in 12 games). ... McDavid and Draisaitl both have three goals and one assist in six career games against the Islanders.
Islanders are 23-1-3 when leading after two periods while Oilers are 13-2-3. Islanders are also 24-5-5 when being outshot. New York's power play is ranked 27th in the NHL at 15.9%. Oilers penalty kill is 29th at 75.7%.
OILERS - Matt Benning (upper body) is questionable
ISLANDERS - Andrew Ladd (leg) is on IR; Thomas Hickey (upper body) is on IR