EDMONTON, AB - Back on February 4, things were going right for the Oilers. They just crushed Columbus 5-1 in their return from the All-Star break two nights prior and on that day they smoked the Senators in Ottawa 7-2 to kick-star their road trip. Unfortunately for Edmonton, those are two of their only three wins post-break.
The Oilers are 3-6-1 in the month of February and they have lost four in a row. The team will try and get out of this slump tonight when they host Ottawa at Rexall Place.
“I think, for us, it’s sticking to our game plan,” said Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse. “We know what we’re capable of, it’s just going out there and executing what we put to paper.”
The Oilers can retain some aspects of their 7-2 win in Ottawa, such as how their offence really clicked and the way they finished off the game by scoring the final four goals. However, tonight will be a different look from the Senators and a fresh 60 minutes of hockey.
“I think you can reflect to a point with seeing systems and what they’re going to throw at you,” said Nurse. “At the same time, it’s going to be a completely new challenge tonight. It’s going to be a new game. Obviously, they have some changes too in their lineup. It will definitely be a challenge I think everybody is looking forward to.”
The Oilers know they can expect Ottawa to come out hungry to avenge their home loss, and they can always expect solid defence from the likes of Erik Karlsson and company.
“Revenge. I’d like to think right away that our team would be very motivated to play against them if we had that type of game so they’re going to be hungry,” said Head Coach Todd McLellan. “They’re closer to a playoff position than us so they’re going to be excited about pushing and playing. They’re on a little bit of a roll. I think they’re backend, obviously with Karlsson he’s such a dynamic guy, but Dion (Phaneuf) adds a lot more to that backend. (Cody) Ceci has the ability to go, so they create a lot of offensive opportunities from their backend either skating or shooting. There’s a challenge there.”
A win tonight would close out this homestand in a positive way, something the Oilers very much need as they hit the road tomorrow and play the Kings and Ducks on back-to-back nights.
“It’d be huge, I think, especially going on the road tomorrow,” said Benoit Pouliot. “It gives us a little bit of momentum going into two tough games in LA and Anaheim. We need this win tonight and we need to get back on track for sure.”
The Oilers held an optional morning skate, but judging by Monday’s practice the forward lineup hasn’t changed from their last game. The defence could be shaken up a bit as Jordan Oesterle may make his season debut after being recalled Sunday. Cam Talbot will start between the pipes for Edmonton.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
SENATORS (28-26-6) at OILERS (22-32-6)
TV: 9 p.m. ET; RDS, SNW, TSN5, NHL.TV
Season series: The Edmonton Oilers defeated the Ottawa Senators 7-2 at Canadian Tire Centre on Feb. 4. Oilers forward Jordan Eberle scored two goals and an assist. Defenseman Erik Karlsson had two assists for the Senators.
Senators team scope: Goalie Craig Anderson is expected to start for Ottawa. Anderson was named the NHL's third star of the week after winning three games with a .951 save percentage. Forward Clarke MacArthur, who sustained a concussion in the fourth game of the season, joined the Senators for the three-game Western Canadian swing. Coach Dave Cameron said MacArthur is close to being cleared to play. Forward David Dziurzynski, who hasn't played since Feb. 4, was reassigned to Binghamton of the American Hockey League. Ottawa has won three straight to move within six points of the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Eastern Conference. "We set a goal last week to get six [points] at home and we did," forward Bobby Ryan told the Senators website. "We're going to have to try to do that again on this trip in three pretty tough buildings." Edmonton-born and raised defenseman Dion Phaneuf will play his final game at Rexall Place.
Oilers team scope: Defenseman Jordan Oesterle was recalled from Bakersfield of the AHL. He took turns on the third pairing with Brandon Davidson and Adam Clendening at practice Monday. Coach Todd McLellan confirmed forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (hand surgery) and defenseman Oscar Klefbom (finger and leg infection) have been skating, but have not been cleared to practice with teammates. Klefbom has not played since Dec. 11 and Nugent-Hopkins has been out since Jan. 18. The Oilers spent considerable time on their power play in practice. They have gone 3-for-26 in the past eight games since scoring three times against the Senators on Feb. 4. "It has to create some confidence, create some momentum in games," McLellan told the Oilers website. "Sometimes that is happening, sometimes it hasn't. The really good teams prevent the dips." This game concludes a six-game homestand for the Oilers (1-3-1).