EDMONTON, AB - “Last time we played them, it definitely wasn’t our best game.”
The first time the Oilers faced Carolina this season, it didn’t go as planned. Coming off a 5-1 win against New Jersey at home and then a 1-0 loss in Washington against the surging Capitals, Edmonton felt confident heading into Raleigh on November 25.
Edmonton even got the game’s first goal, with Benoit Pouliot opening scoring in the first. However, Carolina scored the game’s next four goals, taking a 4-1 win.
“We came off a pretty solid effort in Washington and kind of faltered a little bit against these guys. We get another shot here tonight and we should be ready to go,” said Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
It wasn’t all the Oilers faltering in that game, as Head Coach Todd McLellan is quick to give Carolina deserved credit.
“They played a very good game, they played a hard game, they’re the number one faceoff team in the league, they give up the fewest number of shots, they’re the lowest penalized team, their penalty kill is real good, there’s a lot of things that I think the Hurricanes, their organization and (Bill Peters) are doing there,” said McLellan. “They deserve some credit for that. After that, our input into the game wasn’t near as strong and competitive enough as it needed to be.”
The Hurricanes are 4-2-1 in their last seven games.
The Oilers halted a four-game skid on Saturday when they beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-3 in a shootout.
“I thought overall, that whole game was a pretty solid effort,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “We got down by one but we found that extra one and that’s something we’ve been lacking a little bit late, just getting that extra one. I don’t know if it’s a little bit of an extra push or what but it’s really good to get. We worked hard in overtime. I thought we had a few chances to end it there, but we got it done in the shootout which is really nice.”
Tonight is a chance to get to .500 on this homestand with two more games to go.
SECOND LINE CONTRIBUTING
The Oilers are getting contributions from their second line now, which spells good things for the team’s offence. Pouliot, Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle combined for five points in the win against Arizona.
In McLellan’s eyes, their increased production lies at the feet of the man who scored the lone goal against Carolina in the teams’ first meeting of the season. Pouliot missed eight games due to injury, but is back in the fold and producing.
“I think Benny Pouliot is the key there,” said the coach. “Nuge and Ebs have been up and running and been skating. For Benny, it’s been a while since he really got up and going. We’re starting to see him be more productive. He has scored some goals, but the skating and battling and the execution on the ice rather than scrambly plays. They’re starting to come from Benny. That line was effective. We’ve been able to offset some matches. It’s not always Leon (Draisaitl) going up against some of the big boys. We’ve been able to use Nuge that way in trying to alleviate some of the workload from leon for a while. So we may continue that as well.”
ROLLING WITH TALBOT
The Oilers will roll with Cam Talbot again, who has started five of the last six games. Aside from a stretch of 1:36 in which the Los Angeles Kings got three goals against him, the goaltender has been solid. He’s been able to keep the Oilers in games and is growing in confidence.
“He’s been really good since, and prior to that (Kings game),” said McLellan. “We could take a three-minute eraser out or two-minute eraser out, for that matter. He’s played really well, going all the way back to the Boston game where he entered and saved our bacon that night. He’s played very well. He’ll get another opportunity to do that again tonight. He’s confident. The team is confident in how he’s been playing, so it’s a good marriage there.”
“Since he’s been getting some starts here lately, he’s been really solid for us,” said Nugent-Hopkins. :He’s held us in a few games. Boston for sure, and won too. We try to play as well as we can for them and not give up too many high-scoring chances. It’s nice to have confidence in both guys right now.”
“Since he’s been getting some starts here lately, he’s been really solid for us. He’s held us in a few games. Boston for sure, and won too. We try to play as well as we can for them and not give up too many high-scoring chances. It’s nice to have confidence in both guys right now.”
Projected defensive pairings based on morning skate:
Nurse-Schultz Sekera-Davidson Hunt-Gryba
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
HURRICANES (16-17-6) at OILERS (16-21-3)
TV: FS-CR, SNW
Season series: The Carolina Hurricanes will try for a two-game sweep of the Edmonton Oilers. Cam Ward made 30 saves in Carolina's 4-1 victory at PNC Arena on Nov. 25. Jordan Staal, Elias Lindholm, Jeff Skinner and Andrej Nestrasil had goals for the Hurricanes after Edmonton's Benoit Pouliot opened the scoring.
Hurricanes team scope: Carolina recalled forward Brock McGinn from Charlotte of the American Hockey League on Sunday. McGinn had two goals and three points in 14 games during an earlier stint with the Hurricanes this season. He'll likely take the place of Phillip Di Giuseppe, who left the Hurricanes' 2-1 overtime loss to the Nashville Predators on Saturday because of an upper-body injury and went through the NHL's concussion protocol. Coach Bill Peters hasn't decided on a goaltender; Eddie Lack is 1-0-1 and has allowed three goals in his past two games; Ward has surrendered eight goals in his past five starts.
Oilers team scope: Edmonton is 1-2-0 entering the second half of a six-game homestand; the final three games are against Eastern Conference teams. The good news for the Oilers is the second line of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins between Pouliot and Jordan Eberle is coming alive; it generated five points and 11 shots on goal in a 4-3 shootout win against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday. "Our line has to keep producing and since the (Christmas) break, we've done a better job of that," said Nugent-Hopkins, who got the deciding goal in the tiebreaker.