BOSTON, MA - The Oilers wrap up a five-game road trip with a late afternoon clash against the Boston Bruins on Sunday. Through the previous four games on this trip, the Oilers have won once and lost three other times. The one win was a dominant victory on Wednesday in Detroit. Oilers head coach Todd McLellan and his coaching staff have been scrambling for answers as to why the team has been so inconsistent.
"If we had the answer to that, we would have solved the problem," exclaimed McLellan. "It's kind of like a Rubick's Cube for us. It was special teams earlier in the year, power play, penalty kill. Slow starts, bad periods. Then when we respond with a pretty solid game (against Detroit) but we haven't been able to put them back to back.
"In my opinion, we didn't have enough players that were playing at a high enough level to beat a team (Friday against Buffalo). It didn't matter where that team was in the standings. I don't have an answer for that. I don't know why. I don't think our pace was anywhere near where it needed to be, especially with our physical players who can play a bigger and grinding game."
The club has its hands full against a Boston team playing its best hockey of the season right now. They have won four straight games, including an impressive performance on Friday afternoon in a 4-3 win over the Penguins.
"(They have had a) solid performances out of some young players, depth players who are moving up the chart. They've always been a tough team to play against," McLellan noted.
The Oilers lines at Saturday's practice at Boston University had Leon Draisaitl skating in the middle between Drake Caggiula and Ryan Strome. It would be the first game this season Draisaitl played centre. The lines were:
Michael Cammalleri played with McDavid to end the game against the Sabres on Friday and the duo did well alongside Milan Lucic. McLellan hopes for more of the same between that line on Sunday.
"I thought we elevated Cammy yesterday and he made some plays with Connor," he said. "(Cammalleri) showed his hockey sense and sense of timing and was able to connect with him. But again that'll have to be done for 60 minutes. It was done near the end of the game but we'll give them a chance tomorrow."
DRAISAITL MOVING TO THE MIDDLE
Coach McLellan said that he hopes the move of Draisaitl to centre will help get Draisaitl and his linemates going.
"We're not getting enough out of players. Whether that's Leon and the centres or the wingers so we've got to try something else," said Oilers head coach Todd McLellan after practice, noting that Draisaitl will be in the middle to begin the game on Sunday but he reserved the right to shuffle things up if needed.
"You have to skate there and it might cut back some of the minutes for our other centremen and maybe that'll give them some more energy."
Draisaitl agreed with the coach's assessment.
"I don't really care. Right now it's just a matter of getting my game back together. It's not even close to being good enough right now," Draisaitl began. "There shouldn't be a huge difference but I think you have to do a little bit more skating at centre. It's just a matter of for myself getting my game back together."
McLellan said the reason he's had Draisaitl on the wing for so long is because the line was so good last season.
"Last year, Connor and Leon created the best duo -- and along with Patty Maroon, the top line in the League. They were comparable to what the Schenn line is doing (this season) in St. Louis so we wanted to start there," he stated, adding he also didn't want to push Ryan Nugent-Hopkins down the lineup.
"My opinion, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been a very good player for us (this season). He's had some average nights but what are we, 23 or 24 games in and it's hard to play perfect every night but he's played extremely well."
McLellan also said he felt Ryan Strome has played better at centre so that was another reason.
"We're not as productive as we need to so we're going to put Strome on the wing and put Leon back in the middle."
SLEPYSHEV RETURNS, KHAIRA OUT
The Oilers did get some good news on Saturday as Anton Slepyshev skated on a line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Pat Maroon and looked ready to go tomorrow.
"During practice (Slepyshev) looked quite healthy and had some jump in his stride," said McLellan, adding that the timing works well consider Jujhar Khaira is potentially out with a lower body injury.
"We'll see how he is tomorrow but he's very doubtful," McLellan said about Khaira, who didn't skate.
Slepyshev said that he was happy to be getting back on the ice after missing seven games.
"I feel good. I skated 10 days and that's helped my groin. Now I feel good and I'm ready to come back."
He added that he felt the groin injury came as a result of overcompensation for the ankle injury which kept him out of camp. He said he hopes to return to the form he had the two games prior to injury.
"I had confidence after my last two games. I need to get back as soon as possible," he said. "I felt confident and I felt the coaches believe in me. That's what I need to get back as soon as possible."
KLEFBOM BACK, TALBOT QUESTIONABLE
Oscar Klefbom also returned after missing Friday's game due to illness.
"Klef is feeling better today. He obviously skated and if he is healthy, he'll play," McLellan remarked.
The Oilers bench boss added that Cam Talbot isn't quite 100% although the goaltender did practice and could have played Friday if called upon.
"He's still not 100% today. Klef probably got better quicker than Talbs did. He could have come in and played, obviously, but it wasn't anything we wanted to do. We didn't think it would help him improve.
"If Cam feels good, he'll get the start tomorrow."
-- Marc Ciampa, EdmontonOilers.com
OILERS (8-13-2) at BRUINS (10-7-4)
TV: 3 p.m. MT; Televised on Sportsnet
The Oilers face the Boston Bruins in their final game of this five-game road trip.
Edmonton swept Boston in their two meetings last season, beating them 4-3 on the road and 7-4 at home. The Oilers have beaten the Bruins in five straight meetings after 13 straight losses from 2001-2014. . Oilers team scope:
The Oilers would like to end this road trip on a high note following a disappointing 3-1 defeat in Buffalo on Friday night.
Edmonton has lost three of the four games on this trip so far by a combined score of 17-7. Their lone win came in Detroit on Wednesday.
Connor McDavid leads the team in scoring with 28 points (10-18-28) in 23 games. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisaitl are tied for second with 17 points.
Bruins team scope:
The Bruins are riding a four-game win streak with victories over Los Angeles, San Jose, New Jersey and Pittsburgh.
David Pastrnak leads the team in scoring with 19 points (11-8-19) in 21 games. Brad Marchand is second with 15 points (8-7-15). Jake DeBrusk, son of former Oiler Louie DeBrusk, has 12 points, including five goals so far this season.
By the Numbers:
Bruins goalie Anton Khudobin is among the league leaders in goals-against average this season (2.22) although Tuukka Rask is expected to get the start. Oilers forward Drake Caggiula has three goals in his last four games. Oilers defenceman Yohann Auvitu has points in each of his last three games, registering a goal and three assists.
OILERS: A. Sekera (knee) is on IR, A. Slepyshev (groin) is on IR and listed as probable to return, J. Khaira (lower body) is doubtful against the Bruins, O. Klefbom (illness) is probable, C. Talbot (illness) is questionable to get the start in goal
BRUINS: A. McQuaid (broken fibula) is on IR, D. Backes (colon surgery) is on IR, A. Bjork (undisclosed) is on IR, B. Marchand (undisclosed) is on IR