PITTSBURGH, PA - The Oilers hope to have a different result than last time when they take on the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight at the Consol Energy Center. The Penguins got goals from Evgeni Malkin and David Perron as they defeated the Oilers, 2-0 at Rexall Place. It was a relatively close score, but the Oilers were really frustrated with the effort against Sidney Crosby and the very talented Penguins roster.
“Last game at home that we played them I think a lot of guys on our team gave them a little more time than we should,” Oilers defenceman Oscar Klefbom said. “Sidney Crosby and those guys, they’re too good to give them time on the ice. We have to stay close to them and we have to be ready from the start. The key to our game is going to be the first five minutes of every period to just get into the game early and have a good game.”
The Oilers will ice basically the same lineup that they did in Detroit, except that Keith Aulie will slide in for Jordan Oesterle, who has been assigned to Oklahoma City. Benoit Pouliot (illness) is expected to play.
“He’s good to go. As of right now, he’s good to go,” Oilers Interim Coach Todd Nelson said of Pouliot. “The lineup is going to stay the same basically.”
Ben Scrivens will start.
When it comes to playing the best of the best, like Crosby, sometimes players can get caught watching. That’s something the Oilers were frustrated with in their last contest against the Penguins. The emphasis is on making sure that doesn’t happen again tonight.
“We talked about it yesterday and we talked about it this morning,” Nelson said. “You have to give credit where credit is due, he’s an outstanding hockey player. The worst thing you can do is sit back and watch. We just have to play our game. We want to play as a 20-man unit and everybody has to be tugging on the rope. We can’t have any passengers. I’m more concerned with that.”
Crosby has a goal and five assists in his last three games against Edmonton.
“His list of attributes is strong, there is no doubt,” Oilers winger Matt Hendricks said. “His speed, his power, his ability to make plays… One of the easier ways to defend a guy like that is when he looks and you can tell he’s trying to make a pass. Crosby a lot of time just knows where guys are out there and he makes blind passes a lot that seem to be right on the tape. We’ve got to play him tough though. We’re going to give our best effort to shut him down tonight.”
It’s going to take a focused effort by the Oilers to accomplish that.
“Play them hard, take time and space away from them early and try to predict when the puck is going to be cycled down to him,” Hendricks said. “Try to predict situations where you can get there before the puck, I think that’s the biggest thing. They are some great talents. You just can’t get caught watching them.”
WE MEET AGAIN
The Oilers traded David Perron to Pittsburgh on January 2, and since then he has been on a line with Crosby. Perron has 18 points, including 10 goals, in 28 games with the Penguins.
Perron played over 100 games for the Oilers (116) and scored 33 goals and 44 assists. Perron says he still keeps up with the Oilers and was happy to get a chance to see his old teammates over the last couple of days.
“I always look at the scores and see how they’re doing,” Perron said. “We got in a couple days ago and had a day off yesterday so I could see a lot of the guys and trainers and the staff. It was good.”
Pittsburgh is coming off a four-game road trip out West, in which they played Colorado, Anaheim, Los Angeles and San Jose. Perron is hoping his new team doesn’t have a letdown against his former team, considering they’re coming off a long trip on the opposite end of the country.
“Even though they’re not close to us in the standings, the difference is not that big with any team in the league,” Perron said. “Coming back from a four-game road trip out West, we can’t get caught sleeping. We had two days in a row where we didn’t skate, one of them we flew for five hours. That’s just the way it goes. Any team in this league can beat anyone.”
QUICK NOTES: The Oilers last win in Pittsburgh came on January 10, 2006. The Oilers have a record of 13-13-1 against the Eastern Conference this season. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has six points (3-3-6) in his last five games. Penguins goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is 1-0-1 in his last two games with a .47 GAA and .984 save percentage. Kris Letang (51 points) leads all NHL defencemen in scoring.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (18-38-11) at PENGUINS (38-18-10)
TV: SNW, ROOT
Season series: Evgeni Malkin and David Perron scored for the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 2-0 victory against the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 4. Pittsburgh has not lost to Edmonton in regulation since Jan. 10, 2006. The Penguins are 6-0-2 in that span.
Oilers team scope: Edmonton has lost five straight games. Forward Benoit Pouliot missed the game Sunday against the Carolina Hurricanes because of an illness but played Monday against the Detroit Red Wings. He missed practice Wednesday and is questionable to play against the Penguins. Pouliot has spent time on Edmonton's top line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle with Taylor Hall out of the lineup. Nugent-Hopkins has seven goals and 11 points in his past 12 games. Defenseman Nikita Nikitin is getting closer to returning from shoulder injury, but isn't expected to be available against the Penguins. He could return Friday against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Penguins team scope: After a malaise in the middle of the season that produced a 10-11-5 stretch, Pittsburgh is 6-1-1 since Feb. 21, including road victories against the St. Louis Blues, Washington Capitals, Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings. Malkin has six goals and 13 points in those eight games, and is tied for the Penguins lead in points with Sidney Crosby at 67. They trail John Tavares of the New York Islanders by five points for the NHL lead. Pittsburgh trails New York by four points in the Metropolitan Division but has three games in hand. Of Pittsburgh's final 16 games in the regular season, 12 are against teams currently outside the top eight in each conference. All four games against teams in the Stanley Cup Playoff picture are at Consol Energy Center.