EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers return home following a 2-1-1 road trip, in which they went beyond regulation three times - winning two. Once again, they were tight games, three decided by one goal.
The Oilers hope to replicate some of their play from the road trip now that they return to home ice.
"I don't know what seems to be the difference right now but the way we're playing on the road, especially this last road trip we've tightened things up a lot," said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. "That's the attitude we need to take coming into tonight, especially with the way we finished off our home stand last time definitely wasn't good enough. We responded on the road well and it was a pretty good road trip for us."
A NEW KIND OF EXPANSION TEAM
The Vegas Golden Knights are the first team to come in and test the Oilers on this home stand. Their hot start has been one of the fun storylines so far this season, as they sit at 10-5-1 through their first 16 games in franchise history.
"I'm not completely surprised," said Head Coach Todd McLellan. "I'd say their record surprises me a little bit when I go back to the traditional expansion-type success. The people that are running the program, George (McPhee) and Kelly (McCrimmon), do a tremendous job of scouting. They spent a lot of time constructing the team, and obviously I know Gerard Gallant really well. Between the three of them, they've done a really good job of putting their team together and have developed an identity a lot faster than any of the other expansion teams in the past... When you get that identity developed quickly, you get confidence and you just play. That's what they're doing."
Part of their identity is being hardworking, meaning the Oilers will have to bring the same effort to surpass the visitors.
"It's pretty special what they're doing right now," said Oilers winger Leon Draisaitl. "I think they have a very competitive group over there, which a lot of people forget sometimes. All these guys have played in the League for a while and they're all good players. It's cool to see how they got together and had such a good start. For us, it's about outworking them tonight and it's a good chance at two points."
Jesse Puljujarvi was recalled from the American Hockey League over the road trip and instantly stepped in on the second line, scoring in his season debut against the New York Rangers.
"I think it's confidence for him," said his centre, Nugent-Hopkins. "He's got all the tools, he's a big kid, he's got a great shot and can really fly. If he has the confidence in himself to go out there and do that then he's going to be a force. We saw that, especially against the Rangers, he picked up the puck, put the puck on net and just go get it. He was a force and obviously, I've got to find him in the right spot to shoot the puck and he'll find a way to put it in."
Puljujarvi's biggest benefit to Nugent-Hopkins is that the winger tries to get into spots to shoot, meaning the centre has more opportunities to create scoring chances.
"It's great," said Nugent-Hopkins. "He's definitely a pure shooter. He's got a heavy shot and most of the time it goes where he wants it. Playing with him, sometimes there will be a little rush, he stops up and puts himself in a one-timer spot. I've got to be able to find him when he's cocked and ready like that."
Barring any pre-game changes, the lineup is expected to remain the same from Sunday's game in Washington, D.C. Cam Talbot was the first goaltender off the ice, and gets the start against the Knights.
At the other side of the ice, Jon Merrill will draw into the lineup for Luca Sbisa (lower body).
-- Chris Wescott, EdmontonOilers.com
OILERS (6-9-2) vs. GOLDEN KNIGHTS (10-5-1)
TV: 7:00 p.m. MST; Televised on Sportsnet West
This is the first time in history the Oilers and Golden Knights will have met. The Pacific Division clubs will see each other three more times this season.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers are back from their four-game Eastern road swing, which saw the team play the three Tri-State Area teams - New York Islanders, New Jersey Devils and New York Rangers - then conclude it against the Washington Capitals.
The Oilers ended the trip 2-1-1 versus the four Metropolitan Division teams, allowing only eight goals against. Three of the four games needed extra time, with the finale in Washington being decided by a shootout.
Golden Knights team scope:
The Golden Knights stole three out of a possible 12 points on their most recent Eastern road swing but bounced back at home with a 5-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets on Friday.
After going 1-4-1 on the road, Vegas owns a 3-4-1 away record. The Golden Knights will visit the Oilers and Vancouver Canucks on their current two-game jaunt and will be without defenceman Luca Sbisa on the trip, per Dan Marrazza of VegasGoldenKnights.com. The rearguard, who has one goal and seven assists in 16 games this season, is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
By the Numbers:
The Golden Knights are fifth in the National Hockey League with 128 penalties. The club is 12th in penalty killing and on the power play, with an 81.5 and 20.3 percent average, respectively.
James Neal leads the Golden Knights in all-time points versus the Oilers, scoring 11 goals and six assists in 24 games for 17 total points. Former Oilers forward David Perron is behind Neal with five goals and 12 points in 27 career games against Edmonton.
The Oilers are 1-1-0 this season against Pacific Division squads this season.
OILERS -Drake Caggiula (ankle) is day-to-day; Anton Slepyshev (lower-body) is out; Andrej Sekera (knee) is out.
GOLDEN KNIGHTS - Luca Sbisa (lower-body) is day-to-day; Oscar Dansk (lower-body) is out; Malcolm Subban (lower-body) is out; Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion) is out; Mikhail Grabovski (concussion) is out;