LOS ANGELES, CA - The Oilers felt their effort at the start of their game in San Jose on Thursday night wasn’t where it needed to be, and the result was a 2-0 deficit after 20 minutes. In the second and third, the Oilers were much better and managed to come back and win 6-3. The challenge tonight against a strong Los Angeles team is to not have a slow start again, because that almost certainly means the Oilers would leave LA on the losing end of things.
“Similar to the way we approached the San Jose game, we want a better start obviously,” said Oilers centre Mark Letestu. “Our start wasn’t where we needed it to be against San Jose. We dug ourselves a whole but were fortunate to get out of it.With this team, we don’t think it will be that easy to come back. It seems like once they get ahead then they really put the clamps on and really plug things up. Get off to a good start and off to a lead and hopefully that opens stuff up for us.”
The Oilers got a strong performance from big winger Patrick Maroon in San Jose, a three-point night for the player acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline from Anaheim. Another big body the Oilers acquired this season is Zack Kassian. Both have contributed to the lineup in their own ways.
“Overall, they’ve both been very effective,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “They’re big, they’re strong, they have hands and have a pretty good sense of the game and they’re the type of piece we need to add to our team to complement the skill around them.”
While Maroon earned first star of the night for his performance against the Sharks, Kassian saw his night cut short due to multiple penalties including a game misconduct. While some of the calls that night on the Oilers were debatable in nature, Kassian needs to take a deep breath according to his head coach.
“Maroon had a good night finishing, creating opportunities and that line was really clicking. On the other side, I think Zack Kassian got a little bit emotional and got into it with the referees,” said McLellan. “The penalties were, at best, questionable. At least the first one, maybe the weakest call I’ve ever seen in the league but the second one I could see. After that, he got emotional. He got involved with the referees and that’s not his job. His job is to zip it and play and I’ve explained that to him and we can’t afford to have him only involved in seven or eight minutes of a game. He has to be there full-time.”
When the Oilers take on Los Angeles, Nail Yakupov could see himself elevated in the lineup. Against San Jose, McLellan moved the winger up to play with Leon Draisaitl and Taylor Hall, a combination that showed some jump.
“I thought (Yakupov) had a good game when he went up with those guys and created chances,” said McLellan. “He was reliable defensively, they didn’t give up many and the game turned when we went to three lines and he was a big part of it.”
Yakupov had an assist and played 18:12 against the Sharks.
The Oilers will make a change to their forward group as Adam Cracknell enters the lineup, according to McLellan. Laurent Brossoit will get the nod between the pipes searching for his first NHL win in his sixth career game.
“Every game that I play makes me want it that much more,” said Brossoit. “I just want to contribute positively for the team and it’s just like any other game, I’ve got to go into tonight with that mindset.”
Brossoit had much better outing against Colorado on March 20, in his most recent start. He stopped 22 of 25 pucks. There has been more comfort and confidence in Brossoit’s game since allowing six goals to Columbus on March 4.
“Every game, mentally, I’ve been feeling more and more comfortable,” he said. “Obviously, the results have shown but just not in the win column yet.”
Brossoit will be sprinkled in the rest of the way, with Cam Talbot getting the majority of starts, as the Oilers continue to roll out their pre-determined netminder plan.
“All part of the menu going forward,” said McLellan. “I’d like to see how he plays in this building. They’re big, they’re strong, there’s a lot of traffic that comes to the net and secondary chances. It will be a test for our whole team, but certainly LB.”
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (30-40-7) at KINGS (44-25-5)
TV: 10 p.m. ET; FS-W, CBC, NHL-TV
Season series: The Los Angeles Kings have won four games against the Edmonton Oilers: 3-2 on the road on Oct. 25; 4-3 at home on Nov. 14; 5-2 on the road on Dec. 29; and 3-1 at home on Feb. 25. Forwards Jeff Carter, Dwight King and Tanner Pearson each have two goals and two assists for the Kings. Forward Taylor Hall has two goals and two assists for the Oilers.
Oilers team scope: Defensemen Darnell Nurse and goalie Cam Talbot did not practice Friday but are expected to play. Forwards Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (concussion) and Benoit Pouliot (shoulder), and defensemen Oscar Klefbom (lower body), Brandon Davidson (lower body), Adam Pardy (hand), Andrew Ference (hip) and Eric Gryba (knee) remain out. The Oilers defeated the San Jose Sharks 6-3 on Thursday. "I think it [reinforces] we know we can play with the top teams in the League," defenseman Jordan Oesterle told the Oilers website. "Yeah, we may not be in a playoff spot this year, but going into the summer we know that next year if we play 60 minutes we can be a playoff team."
Kings team scope: Forward Vincent Lecavalier practiced Friday after he missed a 4-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday with an undisclosed injury. There was no update provided on forward Kris Versteeg (foot), who has missed the past three games. The Kings have lost three straight since they clinched a Stanley Cup Playoff berth last Saturday. Los Angeles leads the Pacific Division by three points over the Anaheim Ducks, who have a game in hand. "These are games that we could have separated ourselves a little bit," forward Jeff Carter told the Kings website. "We've got to get going here, we're running out of games, you can't get to the playoffs and then flip the switch, so we've got a lot of work to do here in the next couple weeks."