WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Oilers have their work cut out for them tonight in Washington D.C. and they recognize the challenge. The Capitals are second in the Metropolitan Division with a record of 15-5-1 this season.
The last time these two teams met, it was an offensive display with Washington scoring seven goals, three of them from Evgeny Kuznetsov, on their way to a 7-4 victory in Edmonton. The Oilers know they can’t get into a track meet against an opponent who is sixth in the league with 60 goals for.
“If you try to get into a game like that against this team, I don’t know if there’s a better team in the league that does it than these guys,” said Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. “We can’t play that way. We know that. They might try to get us to play that way but we’ve got to find a way to shut things down defensively, not give them too much and the offence will come with that.”
It’s not only their offence. The Capitals are gelling almost across the board.
“They’re a team that’s really clicking,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “They’re one of the best teams we’ve seen so far this season. They have, and are recognized as, a dynamic offensive team. They really make you pay with speed and talent, they make tremendous plays but they don’t get enough credit for their defensive play, they’re ability to penalty kill. They’ve given up the second fewest goals in the league. Their goals against is very good. Penalty kill is extremely strong right now so we’ve got a challenge on both sides, which is good for our team. We’re going to have to play a real smart, detailed game. We’re going to have to check our way to a win. If we’re going to get into a track meet, we’ve already proved that doesn’t work. It will be a test for our group. I’m anxiously awaiting tonight’s game and looking forward to watching our guys play.”
START FAST, FINISH STRONG
The Oilers are hoping their game tonight resembles their most recent outing. The Oilers shutdown the New Jersey Devils at home, 5-1 on Friday night. This was one game following a close overtime loss to Chicago.
“I think both our games at home, that winning homestand we had, were pretty solid games,” said Nugent-Hopkins. “I think with Chicago, we showed a lot of resilience and good character. Obviously, getting a 5-1 win is a big one for us. It gives us some confidence going into tonight. We know they’re a good team. We saw that when they came to us. We’ve got to be prepared. A better start for us is going to be huge tonight against these guys.”
Tonight, they hope for more of the same as their recent homestand. That means a fast start is key but it’s more so about playing a full 60 minutes.
“We’ve got to be sharp, right from the beginning,” said Oscar Klefbom. “We’ve talked about how they’ve got a really good power play. We have to be really smart and stay out of the box for sure because on the power play they are very lethal. Then we’ve got to play a game like we played against New Jersey for 60 minutes. I think we played a really solid game from the backend to the offence. We’ve got to do that for sure.”
For the Oilers, they’ve consistently played well but the wins weren’t coming. The next step for them is to consistently turn good performances into winning results.
“It’s easy to stand there after losses and say we played good, but it wasn’t good enough if we played 45 or 50 minutes. That’s not good enough,” said Klefbom. “Against New Jersey, I think we played a full 60 minutes. We’ve got to do that tonight to get two points.”
Andrej Sekera is back from his bout with the flu, while Luke Gazdic also draws back into the lineup. Anton Lander will sit out tonight as the Oilers shift Lauri Korpikoski to centre.
“There are different reads now and more responsibility in our end,” said Korpikoski. “We’ve got to make sure we’re talking and making the right play. Just got to jump in and do your job.”
“We’re going to put Korpi in the middle,” said McLellan. “He’s played there a little bit before and he’s slowly getting up and running from his injury but we feel confident that he can go in there and play those minutes. It gives us some physicality with Luke Gazdic coming back into the lineup.”
The rest of the lineup from morning skate looked as follows:
Season series: Evgeny Kuznetsov had a hat trick and two assists for the Washington Capitals in their 7-4 win against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place on Oct. 23. Oilers goaltender Anders Nilsson gave up six goals on 17 shots and was replaced by Cam Talbot in the middle of the second period.
Oilers team scope: Defenseman Justin Schultz is joining Edmonton on its five-game road trip; Schultz has missed 11 games with a back injury and is set to return within the next few days. "I'm hoping I'll be in one of the games on the road trip," Schultz told the Oilers website. "It's close, I've been feeling good." Edmonton begins its eastern road trip coming off a 5-1 win against the New Jersey Devils on Friday. Forward Taylor Hall has a five-game point streak with three goals and five assists. The Oilers have given up six power-play goals in their past seven games; their penalty kill is 22nd in the NHL with a 77.8 percent success rate.
Capitals team scope: Defenseman Brooks Orpik is questionable Monday. He has missed five straight games with a lower-body injury. "He's making progress, but still day-to-day," coach Barry Trotz told the Capitals website. "Until we get him on the ice, then a couple days after that. … Let's just say, if it were the playoffs, he'd by playing." Goaltender Braden Holtby has won his past three starts and has allowed 10 goals in a 5-1-0 run; he is tied for first in the NHL in wins at 11. The Capitals are in the midst of a five-game homestand; they've split the first two games.