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MORNING SKATE REPORT: Oilers vs. Kings

The Oilers continue a four-game homestand Friday against the Los Angeles Kings in their Alternate Jerseys

by Jamie Umbach / EdmontonOilers.com

The Oilers continue a four-game homestand when they face the Los Angeles Kings in their Alternate Jerseys on Friday night at Rogers Place.

You can watch the game on Sportsnet West or listen on the Oilers Radio Network, including 630 CHED.

Read the Preview then check back following Wednesday's avails for the Morning Skate Report.

Video: OILERS TODAY | Pre-Game vs LAK 12.06.19

INSIDE THE OILERS

News and notes from Oilers practice, including an injury update on Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zack Kassian.

>> READ MORE IN THE INSIDE THE OILERS BLOG

PRE-GAME REPORT

EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers have been able to rise to the occasion more often than not this season.

But to the coaches and players, it's about carrying that mindset into every contest.

"So far this year, we've done a good job rising to the challenge of big games," forward Alex Chiasson said. "Obviously that last road trip was kind of a showing of that, but at the same time this league's too hard."

Holding top spot in the Pacific Division placed a target on the back of the Oilers from every team in the NHL, meaning they'd receive the best out of their opponents each and every night.

On Wednesday, an Ottawa Senators team that hadn't been lighting the league on fire found their stride in the second period of a 5-2 defeat for the Oilers.

"It doesn't matter where you are in the standings," Chiasson continued. "This group has to learn that every single night when we may not feel our best personally or as a team, we have to find ways to keep the game tight or in front of us. Those are things that we've seen so far this year, and we have to address that."

That message was a big theme at Thursday's morning meeting ahead of encountering a similar situation in the second game of their four-game homestand tonight against the struggling Los Angeles Kings, who've lost nine-consecutive games on the road and sit bottom of the Pacific Division (11-16-2).

"It's obviously pretty clear," Leon Draisaitl, who has 51 points (18G, 33A) in all 30 games this season, said. "I think we all agreed that we're not going to win many games if we play that way, so it's a good chance for us to respond and come out with a game that we want to play."

"Nights like the other night, those just can't happen. You move on and try to respond. Obviously you have to be sharp and bank as many points as you can, so tonight is a good chance for us to do that."

Goals against was a point of emphasis at Tuesday's meeting, and the Oilers have split the results this season against them in the previous two meetings despite allowing 10 goals.

"You never want to give up five, and that's what we've been talking about the last few days," Tippett said. "We're giving up too many goals right now, so that has to be a key.

"That being said, if we do give up five, I just want to get six. It's not advised, but it's worked once."

Video: PRE-GAME RAW | Neal 12.06.19

Mikko Koskinen will be given the opportunity to bounce back between the pipes with his team when he makes his third-consecutive start - a first for any Oilers goaltender this season - after giving up three goals on 12 shots against Ottawa.

"Just we need him to bounce back," Head Coach Dave Tippett said. "We've had a couple of games where Smith has been down and we've given him the opportunity to bounce back. Koskinen is going to have a bounce back game tonight, so that's why we went back to him."

TIGHT TABLE

Only six points separate first and sixth place in the Pacific Division, with the Oilers one point behind the Arizona Coyotes for the top spot with a 17-10-3 record through 30 games. 

"It's tight from day one until the end of the year. That's just the way the NHL is," forward James Neal said. 

A lot can change in the overall picture with 52 games still on the docket.

"We're always tight with the other teams, so I don't think we pay too much attention," Draisaitl said. "I think we all know where we're at in the standings, but we try to take it game by game. Obviously you want to get that spot back, and tonight is a step that we have to take in the right direction." 

Video: PRE-GAME RAW | Draisaitl 12.06.19

The Oilers began this season on the right foot, but three losses in their last four games are a point for pause and reflection on their hot start and plan out what needs to be addressed as the league gets tighter and tighter. 

"We're seeing an evolution of our team since training camp," Chiasson said. "With that being said, we have to take the next step. I think starting December and going through the holidays, teams kind of separate themselves from the pack and I think that was the message for us. Obviously our goals against has to get better."

"Being part of something special in this league is what you want, so this group is growing and we're in a good position. Now it's on us to take it to the next level and see where it takes us."

Players may look at the standings, but what they hope to recognize and learn is that the only impact they can have on it is their play on the ice. 

"We got off to a good start and we need to keep building on our game. I think focusing on ourselves is the biggest thing," Neal said. "Control what you can control, and that's us going our and playing good hockey and getting better. As long as we do that, we'll be in good shape."

MORE VOICES 

Tippett describes the Oilers bench as loud during the good and the bad, but there's always space to make a bit more noise.

"I see some stuff from our leadership which I like. I'd like to see more of them being vocal when good things are happening," the bench boss said. "We kind of take the good in stride and we actually address some of the bad stuff too, which I like. But you'd like to see a little more juice from the bad stuff too."

"There's a lot of constructive talk there and enough emotion to be happy about, but you could always use a little more."

Video: PRE-GAME RAW | Coach Tippett 12.06.19

Tippett can be one of the loudest voices on the bench taking the opportunity during breaks to communicate. 

"What I try to do is use the TV timeouts to make sure we get messages across at the right time," he said. "I'm not a big guy that's yelling and screaming back there, but our bench for the most part is pretty good."

 In the locker room, Chiasson described the chatter in comparison to last season as intensified thanks to a number of new voices, both young and experienced. 

"We're just more upbeat a little bit in the locker room. Just the atmosphere," he said. "We've done a much better job this year when things are going well not to get too high."

"I think that comes from some of the new faces in our team, and also our young guys gaining experience and being more comfortable in the locker room. So that's good to see from the team.

LINEUP NOTES

Lines at this morning's skate appeared as follows:

Neal - McDavid - Archibald
Khaira - Draisaitl - Gagner
Granlund - Haas - Chiasson
Nygard - Sheahan - P. Russell

Nurse - Bear
Klefbom - Persson
K. Russell - Larsson

Koskinen
Smith

PREVIEW

OILERS (17-10-3) vs KINGS (11-16-2)

TV: 7:08 p.m. MT; Televised on Sportsnet West

Head-to-Head:

Friday will be the third of four meetings between the Oilers and Kings this season.

In their last meeting on November 21 at the STAPLES Center, the Kings skated away with a comfortable 5-1 victory thanks to a three-goal opening period. Tyler Toffoli recorded a pair, and an unassisted Connor McDavid marker in the second period went down as Edmonton's lone goal.

Edmonton won their first meeting, 6-5, back in the second game of their season on October 5 in former Head Coach Todd McLellan's return to Rogers Place.

The two divisional opponents wrap up their season series in Los Angeles on February 23.

Oilers team scope:

Three goals in quick succession, including two in 12 seconds, flipped the script in the second period of a 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators for the Oilers on Wednesday after Jujhar Khaira opened the scoring with his sixth goal of the year.

Mikko Koskinen made nine saves on 12 shots in the defeat to fall to 10-3-2 on the season.

The Oilers could receive a boost from the injury returns of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Zack Kassian, though the former is more doubtful over his counterpart with a lingering hand injury that's kept him out of the lineup for five games.

Through 30 contests, the Oilers hold a 17-10-3 record and second spot in the Pacific Division - one point behind the Arizona Coyotes (17-9-4).

Kings team scope:

Los Angeles are losers of two straight after dropping a 3-1 result to the Washington Capitals on Wednesday. Their meeting with the Oilers will be the first of back-to-back games in Alberta that end Saturday in Calgary.

The road has not been friendly to the Kings this season, where they're 2-10-1 in 13 games away from STAPLES Center and holders of the worst away record in the NHL. In their recent road struggles, the Kings have lost nine-consecutive games (0-8-1).

Anze Kopitar leads all Kings in points with 10 goals and 17 assists in all 29 games. He has led them in points in 11 of his previous 13 seasons.

By the Numbers:

Los Angeles' 2.52 goals per game this season are the third-fewest in the NHL. ... The Kings average the fourth-most shots per game this season (34.3), but follow it up with the second-lowest shooting percentage (7.3). ... The Kings are 0-for-6 on the power play in their last 4 games and 1-for-15 on the power play in their last six. ...

The Oilers are 27-for-87 on the power play this season (31.0%), ranking first in the NHL. ... They are 13-4-1 when scoring a power-play goal this season. ...  The Oilers are the only team in the NHL to rank in the top-five on both the power play and penalty kill. ...

Injury Report:

OILERS - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (hand) is on IR; Zack Kassian (back) is day-to-day; Matt Benning (head) is on IR.

KINGS - Derek Forbort (back) is on IR; Gabriel Vilardi (back) is on IR; Alec Martinez (wrist) is on IR.

-- Jamie Umbach, EdmontonOilers.com

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