RALEIGH, NC - At first glance, the Carolina Hurricanes record is not one to strike fear into the hearts of opposing teams.
They sit seventh in the Metropolitan Division in the East at 7-10-4. However, the Oilers are not wanting to take tonight’s game lightly. They are in search of two points and don’t want to have a “letdown” after a great defensive performance fell short in Washington.
“We need to be the same team every night, regardless of who we’re playing, regardless of their record,” said Oilers winger Matt Hendricks. “We talk about the parity of this league. We talk about it all the time. It’s hard to win hockey games, no matter who you’re playing. We’ve got it cut out for us tonight. This is a team that doesn’t take many penalties so they’re not going to give our power play man opportunities. We need to figure out ways to manufacture goals 5-on-5. We need to be a disciplined team because when they have a chance they can strike as well.”
“I don’t think we want to change our mindset too much,” said Leon Draisaitl. “We know they haven’t been getting the results they want but they’re a strong team. I think they give up the fewest shots in the NHL right now. They’re a really competitive group. We have to match that and go out with the same mentality as we have before.”
While Carolina has scored the third least goals per game in the NHL (2.00), they’ve also allowed only 25.4 shots per game (best in league).
“They give up the fewest shots in the NHL, so they’ve got the puck a lot,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. :They’re a good faceoff team. Their backend is very active and skates well, they’re up in the rush. They’ve got some big bodies in the offensive zone that hold onto the puck well. They’re evolving as an organization and trying to bring some youth in. Sounds a little bit like our team. I’m axioms to see our group play this game tonight. There’s nights where we play against a team that’s maybe in first place and with the belief system, we have to massage that a little bit. Tonight, we could be tricked into looking in the standings but Carolina is a better team, I believe, than their record shows and so are we. It should be a good game for us to play.”
With Carolina being stingy on shots, the Oilers will rely on their top six to create more chances.
“I think we’re all offensive guys and we all want to help the team win or get scoring chances,” said Draisaitl. “That’s the challenge for us tonight, to create as many scoring chances as we can.”
Oilers defenceman Andrej Sekera makes his return to Raleigh, where he played from 2013-2015.
“A lot of memories,” said Sekera. “A lot of great people on the other side and a lot of friends. It’s business as usual, friendships go aside and you try to win a hockey game.”
As for lineup changes, McLellan wasn’t ready to make announcements after morning skate but didn’t rule out some tweaks.
“There’s a chance we’ll makes some changes,” he said. “I’ll get a report when the guys are off the ice on some of the bumps and bruises. Potential changes.”
One of those potential changes, McLellan said, could be the return of Anton Lander to the lineup. Lander missed the game in Washington as a scratch. Justin Schultz will not make his return from a back injury on this night, but could be ready soon.
Anders Nilsson was first off and is expected to make his fourth-straight start, his eighth in the Oilers last 10 games.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (7-13-1) at HURRICANES (7-10-4)
TV: SN360, SNW, FS-CR
Season series: The Edmonton Oilers and the Carolina Hurricanes split two high-scoring games last season, with the Oilers winning the first game 6-3. The Hurricanes won the second game 7-4; Hurricanes forward Elias Lindholm and Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins each had a hat trick. Forward Jordan Eberle had three goals and three assists, while Nugent-Hopkins had four goals and one assist for the Oilers in the series. Lindholm and Jeff Skinner each had three goals for the Hurricanes.
Oilers team scope: Defenseman Justin Schultz will not return from his back injury on Wednesday; Schultz is traveling with the team during its current road trip and expects to return soon. "Doing contact. [Tuesday] was the first time I really did any of that and felt pretty good," Schultz told the Oilers' website. "As long as I feel good tomorrow and keep improving, I'll be ready to go soon." Forward Matt Hendricks and defenseman Oscar Klefbom did not practice on Tuesday. The Oilers are 1-3-1 in their past five games with three of the losses decided by one goal, including a 1-0 loss to the Washington Capitals on Monday. Edmonton outshot Washington 33-30 in the loss.
Hurricanes team scope: Forward Nathan Gerbe was placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a lower-body injury sustained in a 4-3 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Sunday; general manager Ron Francis said Gerbe is expected to miss 4-6 weeks. Defenseman Ryan Murphy remains day-to-day with a concussion; Murphy has missed four games and has been skating but not practicing. Carolina lost to the Philadelphia Flyers 3-2 in overtime on Monday, scoring two goals in the third period to force overtime. The Hurricanes are 1-5-1 in their last seven games. "We have three points in our last two games, which is obviously good for our confidence and momentum," defenseman Brett Pesce told the Hurricanes website after the loss. "We played the best in the third period (against Philadelphia), and we can carry that into the next game."