EDMONTON, AB - The Anaheim Ducks are always a challenge, but tonight that challenge seems greater given the run the Oilers opponent has had since December. In their last 23 games, the Ducks are 16-4-3. They are 9-1-1 in their last 11.
Last night, the Ducks were able to down the Calgary Flames 6-4. Their power play was a perfect 3-for-3. For the most part, the Ducks have been a defence-first team, giving up the fourth-fewest shots against per game in the league. Their goals against is also among the best in the NHL at 2.38 per game.
Their goals scored per game is relatively low, at 2.35, good for 28th in the NHL. However, their six goals against Calgary also shows they can fire up the offensive weaponry when needed.
“They’re a defence-first team,” said Oilers winger Matt Hendricks. “We saw that the last time they were in here, but they’ve found their scoring touch now. Their penalty kill is top notch, number one in the league. Their power play was 3-for-3 last night in Calgary, so we’ve talked about our discipline. Since All-Star break, it’s been poor. We need to improve on that and keep ourselves out of the box and keep them off the power play tonight. A team that, I don’t know there’s a better team in the league right now with the way they’re playing.”
The line of Taylor Hall, Leon Draisaitl and Teddy Purcell is looking to generate more production than they have as of late. If the pucks aren’t going in, then the Oilers at least want them to take care of their side of the ice.
“I want them to take care of their own end and be responsible in all three zones,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “The ability to defend, do it right and get out of your end quicker will allow them more time to attack offensively. I think they need to get the puck to the net a lot more and find opportunities on second chances, not always off the rush. They need to win more faceoffs so they’re in the other team’s end a little longer than what they’ve been. The three of them have some work to do to get back to where they were before and they’re very capable of doing it.”
Following a seven-game point streak, Hall has been held off the score sheet in five straight. McLellan and his staff have taken a hands-on approach to helping their top left-winger get out of his slump.
“We work with him,” said McLellan. “I sat with him yesterday and we went through some areas of his game. It’s not always negative. We’re not always bringing him in and whacking him. We’re showing him things he’s done well. Can he build off those things when he’s done well? I think every player has a foundation. When they’re going well, they feel good because these things are happening. How do you make those things happen? They’re going to occur before the goal, they’re going to occur before the assist. You’ve got to make those things happen. We reviewed what he does well and what that line does well. It’s a matter of getting them up and running again.”
LANDER BACK IN?
There is a possibility forward Anton Lander draws back into the lineup for Edmonton, with an undisclosed forward feeling the ill effects of a bug that’s going around the locker room.
Lander has not played since January 23. He has just two points in 48 games this season. Should he return to the lineup, McLellan is hoping he gains back a little swagger and plays with confidence.
“A confident game,” said McLellan of his expectations. “I sat with Anton and we talked about his year. We were told he was a slow starter. He had a great training camp. He came out of that training camp and we put him in situations where we thought he could succeed, as high as the third-line centre and on the power play. Things didn’t happen for him. OK, now let’s check, let’s become a good penalty killer. He accepted that role but there’s still more there. We took him out for individual games, gave him a little wake-up call and now it’s been an extended period. How does he respond? Play hard, play confident, play like he can, and prove to himself, his teammates and us he’s a full-time NHL player.”
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
DUCKS (28-19-8) at OILERS (22-29-6)
TV: 9 p.m., ET; PRIME, FS-SD, NHL.TV
Season series: The Anaheim Ducks and Edmonton Oilers have split two games. Oilers forward Teddy Purcell scored in overtime of a 4-3 win at Honda Center on Nov. 11. Ducks forward Corey Perry had two goals. Ryan Getzlaf scored, and John Gibson made 21 saves in Anaheim's 1-0 win at Rexall Place on Dec. 31.
Ducks team scope: Goalie John Gibson, who sustained an upper-body injury on Saturday and did not dress in a 6-4 win against the Calgary Flames on Monday, remains day-to-day and could start. Frederik Andersen started and Anton Khudobin was the backup on Monday. If Gibson can't go, Andersen, who made 33 saves Monday, will likely start. The Ducks continue a season-high seven-game road trip (3-1-1), which concludes at the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday. Anaheim has won nine of 11 games (9-1-1). “It's great to score goals and all, but we're going to win by playing good defense,” coach Bruce Boudreau told the Ducks website. “I thought we made some bad reads today, especially coming back into the zone. The gaps were way too big. It's great to score goals – and have the ability to score goals – but we have to defend to win.”
Oilers team scope: Goalie Cam Talbot did not practice Sunday because of an illness but said on Monday he is feeling better. “Feeling great today. I think it was just a 24 hour thing,” Talbot told the Oilers website after practice Monday. He backed up Laurent Brossoit in a 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday, watching the game from the dressing room because of the illness. “Talbot is going to run some games now here for a while, so we've got to make sure that he is up and playing,” coach Todd McClellan said. “I know that [Anders] Nilsson has been playing some games down [with Bakersfield of the American Hockey League] and has been playing well, so we have to make a goaltending change here in a little bit.” Forward Teddy Purcell (maintenance day) did not skate. The Oilers have allowed at least one power-play goal in five of their past eight games. “We have to stay out of the penalty box. Discipline has been a problem for us since the All-Star break and we have to figure that out,” forward Matt Hendricks said.