EDMONTON, AB - Jordan Eberle and the New York Islanders roll into Edmonton on Thursday night, in what will be Eberle's first appearance back in Oil Country since being dealt to New York in exchange for forward Ryan Strome.
Both players have played 66 games for their respective squads in 2017-18. Strome's scored 12 goals this season, compiling 31 points. In his past nine games, the utility forward has nine points, including five goals. Strome also registered his 100th career assist Monday against the Arizona Coyotes.
Strome made his return to New York early in the 2017-18 campaign when Edmonton defeated the Islanders in overtime by a score of 2-1 on Nov. 7. Connor McDavid scored the overtime winner, while Eberle tallied the lone marker for New York.
Strome empathized with Eberle Thursday at the morning skate, knowing what it's like to return to a former stomping ground.
"It's definitely going to be weird for him, he's played here for longer than I was with the Islanders," Strome said. "It's definitely weird and kind of exciting. Going out there and competing against your friends and former team is also pretty fun."
Eberle's resuscitated his scoring in the change of scenery. The winger, playing with rookie wunderkind Mathew Barzal, has 23 goals and 47 points this season.
Strome admitted he didn't feel completely settled in when he made his return back to New York earlier in the year.
"It was definitely really weird," he said. "I think just because it was early in the season, too, and things were pretty fresh. Those friends you have, it feels like you're almost part of the team still because it was so early in the year.
"Now, things have changed for me since I've settled in."
STROME SOLIDIFYING ROLE
At the beginning of the season, many pegged Strome - who can play on the wing or as a pivot - to ride shotgun alongside McDavid. He was also projected to be positioned on the third line as the middleman, or even as a winger on the second line.
In all, there were many plausible spots Strome could have assumed. But with just 15 games remaining in the campaign, the 6-foot-1, 194-pound forward feels he's found his niche.
"Me and Todd had a talk just kind of about what your role is on the team," Strome said on Wednesday. "Being put on the penalty kill has been a big responsibility for me and something I take a lot of pride in. Playing centre, I honestly haven't played this much centre in the rest of my career… Also, being on the power play too, you get some touches and you feel good about your game."
As the season has progressed, Strome's taken on more of a workload and it's helped define the player he needs to be on the team.
"This season isn't over yet," said Strome. "We have a lot to play for and a lot to work out for next year. If I can figure out and solidify my role on this team, it's only going to help us in the long run."
Adam Larsson could return back to the Oilers blueline Thursday night. Zack Kassian is also expected to get back into rotation among the forwards.
The Oilers held an optional skate this morning. Lineups will be more apparent at warmups.
-- Paul Gazzola, EdmontonOilers.com
OILERS (28-34-4) vs. ISLANDERS (29-29-9)
TV: 7:00 p.m. MST; Televised on Sportsnet West
Tonight's game marks the second of two meetings this season between the Oilers and Islanders. The Oilers took a 2-1 win in Brooklyn, in overtime, back on November 7. Leon Draisaitl scored the lone Oilers regulation goal, while Connor McDavid won it in OT.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers ended a three-game losing streak on Monday when they beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-3 in overtime. Oscar Klefbom scored the winner, ending a 33-game goal drought. Milan Lucic snapped a 29-game drought of his own.
Tonight's game is the fourth of a five-game home stand, which ends Saturday night against Minnesota.
Islanders team scope:
The Islanders are in a long slump that dates back to mid February. They've lost seven in a row since February 19.
This is the third of a four-game road trip for them that will end in Calgary on Sunday.
By the Numbers:
Connor McDavid leads the Oilers in scoring with 80 points (30-50-80), while Leon Draisatil is second on the team with 60 (21-39-60).
Matthew Barzal continues his stellar season for the Islanders, leading the team in scoring with 69 points (18-51-69) in 67 games. John Tavares is second with 67 points (31-36-67). Anders Lee is second on the team in goals behind Tavares with 31.
OILERS - No injuries
ISLANDERS - N. Kulemin (upper body) is on IR, C. de Haan (upper body) is on IR, S. Prince (upper body) is on IR, S. Mayfield (lower body) is on IR, T. Greiss (lower body) is on IR, A. Quine (lower body) is on IR