EDMONTON, AB - The Edmonton Oilers are hoping to put the past behind them, wiping the slate clean and flipping the page on the month of October. November brings with it an opportunity to leave their 3-6-1 start in the dust.
"People are grumpy and unhappy when things don't go right but I think that's everywhere," said Oilers winger Milan Lucic. "When you have a tough start, coaches get on you, fans get on you, media gets on you, teammates start getting on each other's nerves and stuff like that but it's no different than other places I've been…
"The pressure is on to get things moving in the right direction. You just want to focus on having a fresh start with a fresh month, leave October in October and get things going again because it was a lot of fun last year and the experience we had. It's a great test with a really good opponent tonight."
Tonight is about as tough of a team as Edmonton could ask for to begin their quest for resurgence. The Oilers have the benefit of having faced the Penguins not long ago, grabbing a point in a 2-1 overtime loss in Pittsburgh on October 24.
"I thought we played a pretty good game against them in Pittsburgh and it was not too long ago that we did play them," said Lucic. "We know the challenges we face here tonight and guys get a little excited when playing one of the best teams in the League and against some of the best players in the League. We've got to definitely step up our game if we want to have success tonight."
ACTIVATE THE DEFENCE
Edmonton allowed 44 shots on Cam Talbot in their first meeting with the Penguins, but the goaltender stood tall between the pipes turning away all but two.
If the Oilers want to start November off with a win, they'll need to limit the visitors' chances. On the flip side, when the offence is struggling to bury goals it's good to have defencemen activating and helping out in that regard.
Darnell Nurse has been one of the Oilers blueliners to step up and try to create offence so far this season, while also being responsible defensively.
"He's probably been our best as far as knowing when to go and when not to. When to pinch and when not to," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "There's not too many scoring chances he's showing up and you're going, 'why are you going now or why didn't you go.' So, we'll leave him alone. He's relied on his instincts and he's one of the most decisive defencemen we've had now."
TRANSLATING PRACTICE TO GAME
You can have a good practice, but it needs to translate to the games.
The Oilers have put in work this week at home, hoping they'll see it pay off after puck drop.
"We've had a couple good days of practice here to sort a few things out, come ready to play and put together a full effort," said defenceman Eric Gryba.
The Oilers put a big emphasis this week on special teams, where the results did not come in October. They also reinforced details and work ethic.
"I didn't think we lost a lot of detail in practice or didn't have it," said McLellan. "We had to be reminded every now and then to have a solid work ethic but we spent a lot of time reinforcing details. Working on special teams, those are two areas - power play and penalty kill - that can make a huge difference.
"I look at this Pittsburgh team, they're a Stanley cup championship team and have some key players but their power play and penalty kill has got them some wins. Their 5-on-5 play, I'm sure they would like it to be better, the goal differential and that type of stuff. And ours is simple, we have to perform in those areas. We spent numerous hours over the past week or two in those areas and at some point, the results have to show up. That's the next step."
-- Chris Wescott, EdmontonOilers.com
OILERS (3-6-1) vs. PENGUINS (7-5-1)
TV: 6:30 p.m. MDT; Televised on Sportsnet 360
Tonight's game is the second meeting of the season between the two clubs. They met in Pittsburgh on October 24, with the Penguins taking a 2-1 decision in overtime.
Connor McDavid scored the lone Oilers goal at 17:07 of the third to send things past regulation. In OT, Phil Kessel scored the game-winner.
Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot made 42 saves in the loss.
Oilers team scope:
It's been a difficult start to 2017-18 for Edmonton. They have a 3-6-1 record through the first 10 games. Their power play and penalty kill have suffered this season with the Oilers converting just 12.1% of their man-advantage opportunities and killing just 70.3% of their penalties.
The Oilers changed their power-play units this week in advance of their game against Pittsburgh.
Penguins team scope:
The Penguins have lost two straight games to start their road trip, including losing 7-1 on Sunday in Winnipeg.
Pittsburgh has allowed five or more goals five times this season, all losses.
Evgeni Malkin is tied with Kessel for the team lead in points (13) through 13 games.
By the Numbers:
Oilers winger Patrick Maroon is on a five-game point streak, scoring four goals and an assist in that time.
Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot has only played the Penguins three times in his career, registering a .924 save percentage and 2.60 goals-against average.
Sidney Crosby only has two goals against the Oilers in 13 career meetings. That's the lowest amount of goals he has against any team in the League (other than Vegas, who he has yet to face).
OILERS -Andrej Sekera (knee-IR) is out;
PENGUINS - M. Hunwick (Concussion) is on IR; C. Rowney (Hand) is on IR; J. Schultz (Concussion) is on IR