EDMONTON, AB - The Los Angeles Kings come to town having won their last two games. The Kings have also beaten the Oilers twice already this season, a pair of one-goal games.
“The past is the past. This is a new game,” said Oilers centre Anton Lander. “Different bodies in the lineup, as well. We’re coming back from two losses after the Christmas break. This is a big game for us and we’ve been playing good at home. We want to continue that thing going.”
The Oilers are feeling confident here at home, having won seven straight at Rexall Place. Keeping those positive vibes going is one of the top goals tonight.
“You have confidence. You love to play here, that’s the bottom line. The fans get you going,” said Lander. “So far it’s been good. We want to keep that going. It’s going to be a tough game tonight. LA is a big, strong team. You’ve got to work hard and you’ve got to do the simple stuff good to be this team.”
Cam Talbot starts in net tonight for the Oilers. As for the forward lineup, no changes are expected. Brad Hunt subs in for Nikita Nikitin on the backend.
FIXING THE POWER PLAY
The Oilers power play is three for 30 in the month of December and that number is not near where the Oilers want it to be. On Monday, they spent the entirety of practice addressing special teams with new-look units.
“There’s been a variety of different symptoms. It’s hard to just pinpoint one thing,” said Head Coach Todd McLellan. “We haven’t won many faceoffs, so as a result we start breaking out. We use up a lot of energy and create a lot of frustration in that area. Our entries, when they have been clean, we haven’t been able to set up off it. We really haven’t established any type of shooting mentality on our power play.
“We’re willing to move it around a little bit but the goaltender never works. We don’t break penalty kills down because we’re not prepared to shoot. We need to fix a few things. We worked on a lot yesterday. Will we have the magic wand tonight? I don’t know. It’s still going to take some time, it’s going to take some good practice time, which we’ll get coming up the next week or two.”
On the top unit, Lander will get an opportunity to do what he does best. Lander will be relied upon to win faceoffs, retrieve pucks and plant himself in front of the goalie.
“Every power play starts with the faceoff,” said Lander. “I’m trying to help out there and then get my ass to the front of the net and try to stay there. (Brad Hunt) is here now and he has a great shot, a great release, so the puck is going to come there. We’ve got to be ready to pick up those rebounds or screen the goalie.”
As Lander mentioned, Hunt has been recalled from Bakersfield to provide some reinforcements on the man advantage as well. The defenceman leads the Condors in scoring this year with 23 points (6-17-23) in 26 games. He has a great first shot on the power play, and that’s what the Oilers need.
“That’s what I’ve done down there in the AHL,” said Hunt. “It’s just one of those things I’m fortunate to have, a hard shot, and that’s what they want me to do, put pucks on the net. Hopefully the boys can bang them in.”
With both Lander and Hunt on the power play, the hope is that they will increase the volume of shots on net and the traffic in front of it.
“What comes first, the shot or the net front? I’m not going to keep running to the end zone if the quarterback never throws the ball there. I’d be an idiot,” said McLellan. “If people are willing to shoot it and get it there then I’m prepared to go there. In turn, if we’re shooting and not there. It’s a catch-22. Anton will get an opportunity, because he is good in the faceoff circle. You look at his numbers and you go, ‘really? On the power play?’ but there are elements to a power play that are important. Faceoffs being one and net presence being another, and maybe he can provide that for us.”
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
KINGS (22-11-2) at OILERS (15-19-3)
TV: FS-W, SNOL
Season series: The Los Angeles Kings won the first two games against the Edmonton Oilers in regulation. Nick Shore's goal with 1:37 left gave the Kings a 4-3 win at Staples Center on Nov. 14. Tanner Pearson had a goal and two assists. Los Angeles won 3-2 at Rexall Place on Oct. 25.
Kings team scope: It's the third of a four-game road trip for Los Angeles and its second game in as many nights following a 5-0 win at the Vancouver Canucks on Monday. Forward Jeff Carter did not play because of an apparent hand injury and is day-to-day. It is unknown if he'll be able to play Tuesday. Goaltender Jhonas Enroth could get his first start since Dec. 19; Jonathan Quick made 27 saves for the shutout in Vancouver. Forward Tyler Toffoli, who had a hat trick Monday, has five goals during a three-game point streak. The Kings have increased their lead atop the Pacific Division to nine points. "We're in a pretty good position, and if we want to be there, we have to push the other teams back, and obviously no better way to do it than beat them," center Anze Kopitar said.
Oilers team scope: Edmonton defenseman Brad Hunt is expected to make his season debut Tuesday. He was unable to play against the Calgary Flames on Sunday because his plane was delayed. Hunt has six goals and 17 assists in 26 games for Bakersfield of the American Hockey League. The Oilers are hoping he can provide a spark to a power play that hasn't scored in 15 periods and has allowed two shorthanded goals in the process. "I just want to help the team with whatever they need help with," Hunt told the Oilers website. "I just want to play my game, what's been making me successful down [in Bakersfield], and get pucks to the net and hopefully the boys can bang 'em in." Defenseman Brandon Davidson, who hasn't played since Dec. 19 because of an undisclosed injury, practiced Monday but is not expected to play.