The Los Angeles Kings come to town to take on the Oilers, looking for the season-series sweep. Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins spoke at length this morning about what it takes to beat a team he believes is a good bet to be in the Stanley Cup Finals.
“I find L.A. to be the, for our group, the most difficult of the bunch,” Eakins said. “St. Louis is right there too but for our team, L.A. is a bunch of these robotic players and they keep coming hard, they try to bully you at your net. I think they get away with a fair amount because it’s the whole perception of well, that’s just how they play and I think they get the benefit of the doubt a lot of times. Those are the things you have to battle through.
“Our big message today is down low, our low forward and our d-zone coverage and our d-men, you have to box these guys out away from the net. We can’t let them in on top of our goalie because that’s where we know they’re going to go. They’re not coming to the blue paint, they’re coming in it and that’s the game and that’s what we’re really going to have to look after first and foremost. Then after that, we’ve got to challenge them offensively and in whatever way you bring. We’ve got one line that has some skill and can kill you off the rush, if they get the cycle game going we can have success there. You’ve got another line that can do a bit of that as well and our other two lines are going to have to chip the puck in, throw everything at the net and play a little bit of the L.A. game. There’s a number of challenges with a team like this that is a firm, put your money down on being in the Stanley Cup Final.”
Oilers forward Ryan Smyth has seen just how dominate the Kings can be against the Oilers.
“As of the last few years for sure they’ve had our numbers,” Smyth said. “It’s a matter of matching the intensity. Our skill set is equal to or as better than those guys but we’ve got to play the team game and play in those harder areas that help our skill prevail.”
The Kings are 9-0-2 in their last 11 trips to Rexall Place and has gained at least a point in 21 of their last 22 meetings (15-1-6).
The Oilers have just two games remaining in the season and look to end on a high note.
“Just play as well as we can,” Oilers forward Taylor Hall said. “That’s all we can really do at this point is play to our capacity and play to our potential. Going into the offseason with a couple of wins is always better than going in with a couple of losses so that’s our mindset.”
EYES ON 80
Taylor Hall has 77 points (27-50-77) in 73 games this season. After already posting career-high numbers, Hall zeroes in on another career achievement, 80 points.
“I’d like to get as many points as I can,” Hall said. “If we’re playing well as a line, that’s going to happen. Nuge and Ebs, like I’ve said many many times before, they’re great players to play with and if we’re doing our job and we’re playing well the goals are going to follow and points and everything like that too.”
Boyd Gordon will miss the season’s final two games with a shoulder injury. Replacing him will be a task for two of the Oilers younger centres as an injury depleted lineup gets a little more jumbled. Will Acton and Anton Lander will rotate in the lineup at centre to take on some of the responsibilities normally given to Gordon.
“It will be both,” Eakins said. “Both guys there will play centre and then we’re going to work the wingers around them. My plan going into the game is we’ve got 11 forwards, I’ll run the four centremen and then I’ll just keep flipping guys down on those two guys’ wings. Acton and Lander will see a number of different wingers tonight but they’ll both be in the middle.”
SEARCHING FOR IMPROVEMENTS
The Oilers have two games left in the season to continue to try and improve and set themselves up with positives to draw on going into next season. Taylor Hall said that from the 20-game mark or so until now, there have been some improvements but that needs to continue for the betterment of the team.
“I think there’s a little bit of a different feel just from the start of the year, probably the 20-game mark to game 80 where we’re at now, I think there’s been a big change where we’re viewing the game and the way we’re playing out there,” Hall said. “We’re not where we want to be just quite yet but I think the fundamentals are starting to be there and I think everyone is starting to see that. I think that’s the most important thing for a group like ours. We have to see improvements just for our mental state. For us, I think we’re seeing those and that’s big.”