NEW YORK - The Oilers play the fourth game on their five-game road trip today in New York against the Rangers. Coming off a win Friday against the Buffalo Sabres, the Oilers didn’t want to make too many changes to their lineup. Viktor Fasth starts again and the only change otherwise is the return of captain and defenceman Andrew Ference from a three-game suspension.
“Andrew comes back in. We really felt Andrew out of the lineup in that Boston game. It’s good to have him back. Marincin will draw the short straw and be out. We’ll put Andrew with Justin Schultz,” said Eakins.
“Viktor will play again. We thought he was real solid (against Buffalo on Friday). He’s feeling really good about his game. We thought it was important to let him roll with it,” Eakins said.
THE CAPTAIN IS BACK
Having Ference return to the lineup will be a welcome addition for the Oilers.
“He’s an established NHL player, a guy we rely heavily on for guidance and leadership. And his competitiveness,” Eakins began. “A guy who’s going to give you his maximum potential every night. There’s no question that he lays it on the line every night and that’s something we need from all our players.”
The Oilers captain talked about being ready to step back in today.
“I’m excited to get back. It wasn’t stretched over too long a time, so that’s good. A couple practices and stay sharp,” said Ference. “It was pretty quick.”
Ference added that he felt one positive was he was able to get a perspective of the game from the press box that he wouldn’t ordinarily get to see.
“It is beneficial to see it from up top, see how the system’s working, how the guys are working, what they’re doing well,” he remarked. “When you’re playing in a game, you don’t really get to see your teammates that much. You’re concentrating on your own game. You don’t get to see it from a different perspective. It was positive to see it from there.”
POULIOT RETURNS TO MSG
Benoit Pouliot makes his return to MSG tonight after helping lead the Rangers to the Stanley Cup Final last season with five goals and 10 points in 25 postseason games.
“It’s going to be nice,” said Pouliot. “I’m excited. Not too stressed right now, but probably come game time I’ll be a little bit more nervous. But I feel good. We had a good run last year with a bunch of good dudes on the other side. I’ll be fun to play against them.”
He’s off to a bit of a slow start this season with the Oilers with one goal and four points in 14 games but it’s not something that Eakins is worried about.
“We think that Pouly’s had lots of good looks. We were just saying this morning, he’s had two rebound chances on the power play, wide open and it hopped over his stick. If he puts those in the bank, things start looking a lot better for him,” Eakins stated. “We believe the offence will come. We were interested in him because of his ability to close on the puck, drive the forecheck and the ability to move him up and down the lineup like we’re doing now. We’re more willing to take a breath on his output knowing that it’s going to come if he keeps getting his chances.”
Pouliot echoed the thoughts of his coach.
“I think the past three or four games, my game has been better even though the production’s not there. But I feel good. I’m doing the right thing. It’s just a matter of getting points. At one point it’s going to come.”
Last season, he only had four points in his first 27 games in New York.
“I’m not too worried about it right now. Last year was a tough start for me, too. I just go day-by-day and see how it goes.”
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (5-8-1) at RANGERS (6-5-2)
TV: SNW, MSG
Goalie Viktor Fasth will start opposite fellow Swede Henrik Lundqvist for the first time in his career Sunday when the Edmonton Oilers take on the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Fasth, a native of Kalix, Sweden, will start for the second straight game and third time in the past four games. He made 29 saves in a 3-2 win against the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. Fasth has never faced the Rangers in his career.
"We thought he was real solid [Friday] and he's feeling really good about his game," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said Sunday, according to the Oilers website. "We were feeling good about his game and thought it was important to let him roll with it."
Lundqvist got Saturday night off at Air Canada Centre, when Cam Talbot played in a 5-4 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Rangers, who did not have a morning skate Sunday, were not happy with their performance in front of Talbot against the Maple Leafs.
"I think at the end of the day we need a better commitment to playing a solid two-way game," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said after the game, according to NorthJersey.com. "Offensively, obviously we were getting some good looks, but we need to tighten up things defensively and I think a lot of that starts with our forwards getting available a little bit better and on the right side of the play. On their winning goal, if you look at the final picture, they almost got a 4-on-0 on our goaltender. Some people missing there."
The Oilers will have captain and defenseman Andrew Ference back in the lineup. Ference missed the past three games because of a suspension for an illegal check to the head of Vancouver Canucks forward Zack Kassian on Nov. 1.
Edmonton won one of three games without Ference, who is averaging 18:56 of ice time per game. The Oilers win against Buffalo snapped a four-game losing streak.
"I've played probably close to 1,000 games all around and I don't know how many hits that would be, but that's a lot so I think it's pretty much business as normal," Ference said, according to the Oilers website. "Obviously you take into consideration what has gotten you in trouble before, but there's a reason I have stayed in this League for long and it's playing a certain style of game."
The game also marks the return of Oilers forward Benoit Pouliot to New York. Pouliot had 36 points, including 15 goals, in 80 games with the Rangers last season, establishing chemistry with Derick Brassard and Mats Zuccarello. He had 10 points in 25 Stanley Cup Playoff games, helping the Rangers reach the Stanley Cup Final.
Pouliot signed a five-year contract with the Oilers on July 1.
"It's going to be nice. It's going to be fun. I'm excited," Pouliot said, according to the Oilers website. "Not too stressed right now, but probably come game time I'll be a little bit more nervous. I feel good. I feel excited. We had a good run last year. There's a bunch of good dudes on the other side. It's going to be fun to play against them and see them on the ice."
Here are the projected lineups:
Benoit Pouliot - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Jordan Eberle Nail Yakupov - Mark Arcobello - David Perron Teddy Purcell - Leon Draisaitl - Iiro Pakarinen Matt Hendricks - Boyd Gordon - Jesse Joensuu
Andrew Ference - Justin Schultz Jeff Petry - Nikita Nikitin Keith Aulie - Mark Fayne
Viktor Fasth Ben Scrivens
Injured: Taylor Hall (knee) Scratched: Oscar Klefbom, Martin Marincin
Rick Nash - Derick Brassard - Martin St. Louis Chris Kreider - Derek Stepan - Mats Zuccarello Carl Hagelin - Dominic Moore - Lee Stempniak Tanner Glass - Kevin Hayes - Anthony Duclair
Marc Staal - Kevin Klein Matt Hunwick - Dan Girardi Conor Allen - Michael Kostka
Henrik Lundqvist Cam Talbot
Scratched: Ryan Malone Injured: Ryan McDonagh (shoulder), Dan Boyle (hand) Suspended: John Moore Status report: Fasth is starting despite the fact that Scrivens stopped 72 of 73 shots in two starts at Madison Square Garden last season. … Stepan had an assist in 26 shifts totaling 17:26 of ice time in his season debut Saturday. Faceoffs were a problem as he won six of 19. He missed the first 12 games recovering from a fractured leg, an injury he sustained in the preseason. … The Rangers are 3-3-0 this season when trailing after two periods. They have scored 20 of their 37 goals in either the third period or overtime. They have scored in the third period in 11 of 13 games this season. … Edmonton is 0-5-0 when trailing after two periods and has been outscored 19-13 in the third period.
Who's hot: Nash tied Anaheim Ducks forward Corey Perry for the League lead in goals by scoring his 11th of the season Saturday. He has goals in back-to-back games. … Brassard has five points on one goal and four assists in the past three games. … St. Louis also has five points in the past three games on three goals and two assists. … Kreider has four points in the past three games on two goals and two assists. … Gordon has goals in each of the past two games after not scoring in the first 12 games. … Arcobello also has goals in each of the past two games.