News and notes from Sunday's Oilers practice at KeyBank Center, including a feature on Josh Currie's success with the team, Zack Kassian's comments on playing with Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, plus more.
The Oilers will conclude their five-game road trip against the Buffalo Sabres at KeyBank Center on Monday, attempting to complete the jaunt with a three-game winning streak stowed on the plane ride home.
The Orange & Blue have accrued five out of a possible eight points on the tour so far, going 2-1-1 on the trip and 3-1-1 in their last five.
"We've played some good hockey save for the period in Toronto," said forward Sam Gagner, who has six points in 15 games this season. "It's another important game for us."
Heading into Monday's action, the Oilers remain eight points out of a playoff spot with eight clubs in the mix. The scoreboard watching is well under way but the focus for the Oilers is on what they can control, which is their remaining 17 games - 10 of which will be played at Rogers Place.
"We need to continue to pick up points," added Gagner. "It's going to be a tough test."
It certainly will be a tough test against the Sabres, who are the third-best home team in the Eastern Conference. The Sabres are 19-9-4 in their barn and Oilers Head Coach Ken Hitchcock is aware of it.
"We're going to get a real test tonight because these guys are good at home," the bench boss said.
In Edmonton's last game - a 4-0 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets - Hitchcock lauded his club's ability to check well and believes that will be the key once again.
"The hardest thing to trust is your work and your checking," he said. "We're starting to believe that if we check, we can control the hockey game and not just try to do it with our skill.
"That's what we believe in right now… That's what all the top teams have."
Leon Draisaitl's game has elevated to new heights this season, with the German becoming the second player in the League to have both 40 goals and 40 assists, achieving the feat versus the Blue Jackets.
Draisaitl is on a 10-game point streak, scoring eight markers and seven helpers over that span but Hitchcock also noted his defensive efforts improving as well.
"I'd say what's impressed me the most is how he's changed," said the coach. "He needed to change and just kind of slow down, and understand that position and spacing on the ice was as important as effort.
"He's at another level right now."
Tonight's meeting is another head-to-head between McDavid - the first-overall selection in the 2015 NHL Draft - and Jack Eichel, who was chosen second.
Much hype is perennially made between the top two consensus draft picks each new year but that's not the case four years after the two superstars began their careers.
"Connor will be the first to tell you he doesn't want to compare himself to anyone," said Gagner. "He's had a pretty great career so far and continues to be a really important part of what we're doing here.
"In terms of the debate, you just let guys go play and don't worry too much about that."
The Oilers held an optional practice on Monday. Mikko Koskinen is expected to start in goal while lines will be made apparent at warmups.
Tonight's game is the second and last meeting of the season between the Oilers and Sabres.
Edmonton handed it to Buffalo on Jan. 14, defeating the club by a score of 7-2. Zack Kassian and Milan Lucic both scored twice, while Connor McDavid, Tobias Rieder and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins all had multi-point nights.
The Sabres dominated the season series in 2017-18, winning both games against Edmonton by a combined score of 8-1.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers are riding a two-game winning streak, defeating the Ottawa Senators 4-2 then blanking the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-0. The club is 3-1-1 in their last five outings and 4-1-2 in their last seven.
Edmonton remains eight points away from the second Western Conference wild card position, jostling with seven other NHL clubs for a playoff berth.
Oilers Captain Connor McDavid leads the team with 90 points (33G, 57A) in 61 games, sitting third in League scoring.
Leon Draisaitl heads all Oilers in goals with 40, tied with Patrick Kane for second League-wide, and has 81 points on the season - good for sixth in the NHL.
Sabres team scope:
The Sabres most recently lost 5-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday, and are 3-6-1 in their last 10 tilts.
Jack Eichel is first in team scoring with 70 points (23G, 47A) in 62 games, while Jeff Skinner owns the most goals on the club with 36. Sam Reinhart is also having a career year with 58 points (18G, 40A) in 65 matches.
The Sabres were first in the Eastern Conference when they went on a 10-game winning streak earlier in the season but have gone 13-21-6 since.
Buffalo is nine points away from an Eastern Conference wild card, chasing the Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens, Columbus Blue Jackets and Philadelphia Flyers.
By the Numbers:
Connor McDavid has the second-most game-winning goals on the year with eight, trailing only Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche by one. ... McDavid has 46 road points (17G, 29A) in 32 games away from Rogers Place this season and has an NHL-high 147 points on the road since '16-17, 12 more than Nikita Kucherov.
Leon Draisaitl is on a 10-game point streak, picking up eight goals and seven assists over that time. ... The German has the most goals in the League since Jan. 20 with 16, three more than Chicago's Patrick Kane, and has scored 22.2 percent of all Oilers goals (40 of 180).
The Sabres are 19-9-4 at KeyBank Center in '18-19, which is the third-best home record of all Eastern teams. ... Rookie Rasmus Dahlin has eight goals and 37 points in 65 games, second behind only Elias Petterson in the rookie scoring race. ... His 37 points are the third-most by an 18-year-old defenceman in NHL history, behind Sabres Head Coach Phil Housley (57) and Bobby Orr (38).
OILERS - Jujhar Khaira (foot) is on IR; Jesse Puljujarvi (hip) is on IR.
SABRES - Vladimir Sobotka (upper body) is day-to-day.