EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers host the Anaheim Ducks tonight in a rematch of Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss in California. The Oilers comeback bid fell short in Anaheim, so for them tonight is about capitalizing on more chances.
“Last game was pretty tight,” Mark Arcobello said. “We made a few mistakes here and there that they took advantage of. When we had opportunities, we weren’t able to finish. We’ve just got to bear down and finish those chances, play that simple style game and if we can finish more chances and get a couple more pucks to the net then I think we’ll have some success.”
MORE OFFENCE NEEDED
The Oilers have scored more than two goals just once in their last 10 games. Given their firepower up front, the Oilers are a little surprised that they haven’t been able to get more pucks to the back of the net.
“A little bit,” Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said of the surprise at the lack of scoring. “I think some games we capitalize a lot, it looks like we’re hungry for those second and third opportunities, we’re going to the net and fighting for those loose pucks. Other games it’s a little bit less than that. If we can just bring that to our game every night I think we’ll have more success finding the back of the net.”
Some of the reason the Oilers have lacked offence is an absence of the important net-front presence. The push to get to the front of the net has been more for the Oilers in recent games, but they could still use a player to step up and take that “get to the net first” mentality.
“You always want more of it,” Head Coach Dallas Eakins said. “You wish every guy that you have is a gritty, go to the net and be able to score 50 with his skill (kind of guy). That’s what you’re always looking for. Sometimes getting a certain player to be able to go to the net consistently and play that gritty game is as challenging as taking a guy with little skill and telling him you need him to score 50 goals. These guys all got to this league one way or the other and changing their DNA is an extremely hard thing to do. I usually think you can maybe turn it up 5% one way or the other. But we are seeing it now where guys, it’s out of their character to go to the net but now we’ve got guys standing there or at least trying to get there. We just have to continue to do that until we start filling up the basket.”
KLEFBOM CONTINUES TO RISE
21-year-old defenceman Oscar Klefbom continues to earn praise from the Oilers coaching staff. The young blueliner played a career-high 25:34 against the Ducks on Wednesday night. For a young player, Kelfbom continues to show growth and that he’s deserving of the responsibility.
“He came in last year and was maybe in the lineup too soon and I thought we made a good decision with Oscar to let him go back down there and play again,” Eakins said. “When he went back down and played, he was dominating there. He was very noticeable on the ice. He’s come up here and you start spotting him in and seeing where he’s at, but he’s taking over games now. He has been a very bright light so far. We hope that he can continue it. He’s extremely strong, he’s extremely fit, he can handle the minutes on multiple nights with back to backs, three in four or whatever we’re on now with four of six tonight. His minutes continue to rise. I think he was at 25 last game or somewhere in there. He’s coming. If he keeps playing like that he’s going to keep playing 25 minutes or more.”
GORDON’S ABSENCE HURTS
The Oilers are without Boyd Gordon, arguably one of the top penalty killers and faceoff specialists in the league. Gordon is out for an undetermined amount of time with a back injury.
His absence was felt in the Oilers 2-1 loss in Anaheim on Wednesday night, where the team finished with just 21 faceoff wins to the Ducks 43.
“We’re missing maybe the best faceoff guy in the league and a guy that we rely heavily on. In our zone, heavily,” Eakins said. “I don’t know, there might be two or three guys in the league that have more defensive zone starts than Boyd Gordon. We clearly missed him the other night. Anaheim is a good faceoff team, they’ve got some guys there that can win draws and if we can’t get them clean then we have to at least try to tie the puck up and go 50-50 and try to get some help. I thought the faceoffs the other night affected the game greatly, with Anaheim getting the puck first and then we’ve got to go chase it. You don’t want that but that’s where we really miss Gordo right now.”
QUICK NOTES: Oilers Oscar Klefbom scored his first career NHL goal against the Ducks on March 28, 2014. The Oilers have won the last two meetings against the Ducks at Rexall Place. Jeff Petry is one assist away from 50 in his career. The Ducks lead the NHL with 43 standing points. Ryan Kesler leads all active Ducks in career scoring vs. Edmonton with 10 goals and 26 assists for 36 points in 52 games.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
DUCKS (19-6-5) at OILERS (7-17-5)
TV: PRIME, SNW
Season series: The Anaheim Ducks defeated the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 on Wednesday in the first game of their home-and-home. Ryan Kesler scored the game-winner, and goalie Frederik Andersen made 21 saves to earn his 15th win.
Ducks team scope: Anaheim has won five straight games and leads the NHL with 43 points. "We don't let much define us in here when we deal with adversity," Kesler told the Ducks website after the win Wednesday. "We just keep battling. We're playing well. We're going to keep riding this." Andersen has made 13 straight starts (8-3-2), but may get Friday off; goalie Jason LaBarbera was activated from injured reserve Thursday after being out since Oct. 29 because of a hand injury. The Ducks also signed goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to a one-year contract Tuesday, but he has not been recalled from Norfolk of the American Hockey League. Forward Dany Heatley was assigned to Norfolk on a long-term injury conditioning loan Thursday. The 33-year-old hasn't played since Nov. 9 because of a groin injury; he has no points in four games in his first season with Anaheim. The Ducks continue a five-game road trip Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets.
Oilers team scope: The loss Wednesday was Edmonton's second in a row since snapping an 11-game losing streak (0-7-4) on Sunday. Defenseman Brandon Davidson made his NHL debut Wednesday. The 23-year-old was plus-1 and had two hits and one blocked shot in 13:08. "It was exciting to get my first one, for sure," Davidson said. "I'm really happy, but I would have been a little happier if we could have gotten the two points." Goalie Viktor Fasth made his third start against his former team, allowing two goals on 34 shots in his first action since Dec. 1. Forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins scored for the Oilers, who continue to struggle to produce offense. They are ranked 29th in the League in goals per game with 2.17. "We've got some guys who have proven they can put the puck in the net, and for whatever reason we're just having trouble getting it in there right now," coach Dallas Eakins told the Oilers website. "It's something you have to be extremely patient for. It eventually turns, but we need eventually to be now."