EDMONTON, AB - Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan didn’t beat around the bush this morning when he spoke about the team’s 8-1 loss to the New York Islanders on February 7.
“They drilled us, in every sense of the game,” said McLellan.
Kyle Okposo recorded a hat-trick, while the Oilers failed to produce offence despite registering the same amount of shots as the Islanders. Connor McDavid was the lone Edmonton player to score in the Brooklyn shellacking.
“From the goaltender, to the blueline, to the offence, to the defence, to the power play, to the penalty kill, they absolutely drilled us that night. I would say they had their A-game and we were nowhere near ours and things snowballed on us.”
Revenge is the name of the game tonight as the Oilers host the Islanders.
“That’s safe to say for sure,” said Oilers defenceman Brandon Davidson. “They took it to us last game. They executed well and we weren’t ready for that. I think it’s our time here now to kind of get revenge and make sure that we polished our game up here over the weekend and make sure we’re doing everything we can and doing things the right way. That’s the most important thing, doing things the right way and then the results will come.”
For Edmonton, the good news is that their effort is on the upswing following a two-game road trip to California. Despite 2-1 losses to Los Angeles and Anaheim, the Oilers can take positives from the way they competed against the big, heavy Western Conference teams. A lot of the change in performance these last two games comes from the pride in the locker room, according to the players and coach.
A 4-1 loss to Ottawa on February 23 closed out a disappointing homestand, in which the Oilers dropped five games in a row at Rexall Place.
“Pride has to kick in,” said McLellan. “We talked about that after the Ottawa game. I don’t think anybody was anywhere close to being pleased with the input put into games the last little bit of that homestand. When the input is really weak and poor, the output is going to be even worse and we proved that. The fact that we went into two tough buildings and maybe had a little bit of fear in our game and I don’t mean afraid to play but afraid to lose, we became a scrappier team. We scratched and clawed for ice and checked our way and were we pretty or perfect? Absolutely not, but it gave us a chance to win. It has to be that way from now until the middle of April or we have no chance for success.”
“It was unacceptable the way we were playing as a collective group,” Davidson added. “There’s a lot of pride in this room and a lot of people who care about each other and about this team. I think we kind of just wanted to put a stop to the bleeding and make sure we’re putting our effort in and make sure that’s not the reason we’re losing games. We were able to do that over the weekend and take a step in the right direction.”
For Edmonton to win tonight, they will have to draw on their California matches for a bit of the blueprint to beat the other blue and orange club. If all else fails, they do have extra motivation to dish out a little payback.
“I think we’re well-prepared for what New York brings,” said Oilers forward Mark Letestu. “They play physical, they play fast and are pretty similar to the past two teams we played. I think we’re prepared to play the kind of game we need to play to win. They game we weren’t prepared to play in Brooklyn, we took it on the chin pretty good there. There should be plenty of motivation and plenty of fire here to come out with a really good effort and show that’s not the type of team we are.”
NUGE SKATES WITH TEAM
The Oilers had a pleasant addition to their morning skate today. Centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins skated with the team for the first time since breaking his hand on January 18 in Florida.
“It’s coming along well now,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “Obviously, at the start of an injury it’s kind of boring. You go through the simple steps first. Now, obviously, I’m at morning skate so I’m getting back into it a little more. I’m kind of week-by-week right now, but the process is definitely going well.”
Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli said yesterday he expects both Nugent-Hopkins and defenceman Oscar Klefbom (lower body) to return around the same time. Klefbom didn’t skate with the club today, and Nugent-Hopkins is still likely a couple weeks away from returning. However, skating with the team is a positive step.
“There’s no specific date. It’s kind of week-by-week right now. We’re on the same timeline, obviously, as when it started. It’s feeling better, the progress is steady so I’m definitely optimistic that it will hopefully come along quicker.”
The Oilers are likely to roll out the same lineup they utilized in California when they play the Islanders tonight.
Cam Talbot is expected to start in net, his seventh straight. Talbot has started eight of the last nine games for Edmonton and 13 of the last 15.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
ISLANDERS (33-19-7) at OILERS (22-34-7)
TV: 9:30 p.m. ET; MSG+, SN, NHL.TV
Season series: The New York Islanders scored a season-high in an 8-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 7 at Nassau Coliseum. Kyle Okposo had a hat trick and an assist, John Tavares had a goal and two assists, and Nick Leddy had three assists.
Islanders team scope: Defenseman Ryan Pulock likely will make his NHL debut. Pulock had seven goals and 24 points in 51 games with Bridgeport of the American Hockey League. "There's a good chance Ryan will play tomorrow," coach Jack Capuano said after practice Saturday. Defenseman Calvin de Haan (lower body) remains out, so Marek Zidlicky or Brian Strait likely will be a healthy scratch to make room for Pulock. New York has won the first three games of a season-long seven-game road trip. Goalie Jaroslav Halak started each of those games and allowed two goals; he hasn't started four straight since Jan. 14-25.
Oilers team scope: Edmonton's roster will look different after it made three trades Saturday. The Oilers traded goalie Anders Nilsson to the St. Louis Blues and recalled goalie Laurent Brossoit from Bakersfield of the American Hockey League. Edmonton also traded defenseman Justin Schultz to the Pittsburgh Penguins and forward Teddy Purcell to the Florida Panthers, each for a 2016 NHL Draft pick. This is the first NHL Trade Deadline for general manager Peter Chiarelli with Edmonton after leaving the Boston Bruins. "When I took the job, I didn't dismiss the notion that I might be a seller at the deadline, so I knew anything was possible," Chiarelli said. "This is the first time in 10 years that I have been a seller and it's a little disappointing that way. But we had some housekeeping items to do, and I say that, with all due respect to these guys, but there were expiring contracts and we had to move forward without them and we have to move along." The Oilers have lost seven straight games and have one win in their past 11 (1-8-2). Brossoit could make his second NHL start. He allowed one goal on 33 shots in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Feb. 13. Cam Talbot has started each of the past six games.