ANAHEIM, CA - The Edmonton Oilers play their second game of the four-game road trip tonight against the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks are 5-7-3 this season after a slow start and despite losing their last game 4-3 in overtime against the Coyotes, they've played very well lately with four straight wins prior to that.
“Their record is not indicative of their abilities and likely where they’ll end up,” stated Oilers head coach Todd McLellan. “They’re starting to play the way they’re capable of. When you look at just their goaltending numbers alone, that part of the game is real good so that always gives you a chance to have success. They will be a real big test for us.”
McLellan added that this is one of a series of challenges the Oilers are set to face on this road swing.
“I looked at this trip, I think we play two teams that have won the Stanley Cup over the last four or five years a few times, one that’s expected to in Anaheim and an up-and-coming team in Phoenix. So we get different challenges every night.”
The head coach talked about what the team should expect tonight against a big, tough Ducks squad.
“This team is big, strong, they hold onto pucks real well down low. The penalty killing’s being superior. Their record is probably not what they’re pleased with but they’re doing a lot of things that looked good in the pre-scout anyhow.”
LOOKING FOR A BETTER START
The Oilers are hoping for a better start to the game tonight after falling behind early in a number of outings recently. That need is amplified tonight with the Anaheim Ducks scoring 12 of their 24 goals this season in the opening frame.
“Anaheim’s a very good first period team. They get off to a real good start. This isn’t the first time we’ve addressed it as a hockey club. We’ve responded well after having meetings. We had another one yesterday but for me it’s the long-term effect of starts. It’s not just against Anaheim, it’s coming to the rink and believing that you can put your game out there and challenge any team in the League. We seem to believe that after we’re down by two but we have to believe that prior to.
“It can’t be short term against Anaheim or short term against Arizona tomorrow, it has to be a long term thing we have to deal with and rectify as the games and months go on.”
Taylor Hall echoed the comments of his head coach.
“I don’t know if it’s weathering the storm or just coming out and going after them. We’re not playing with any trepidation about how they’re going to play. If we can just come out and not worry about the score — we get down two and then we start playing — if we can just go after teams right off the bat and maybe put them on their heels that would be nice.”
Meanwhile, Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau was asked about his team's struggles this season in the second period. Anaheim has allowed 21 goals in the middle frame. By contrast, they have only allowed six goals in the first period and seven goals in the third period.
“To me, it’s 90% about line changes," said Boudreau. "That long change, if you don’t make the line changes at the right time you usually get caught and are in trouble. I mean, it’s something we have to work on. Last year and this year we’ve really struggled in the second period but it’s almost now a mental issue that we have to get over and have a great second period and I think we’ll be fine then.”
In terms of goals against, the second period is the best period for the Oilers. They have allowed only 13 goals in the second. Anaheim's best period is the first period with 12 goals for and six goals against. Edmonton's worst period is the opening frame with 11 goals for and 17 against.
“Hopefully it’s not a tentative thing. Hopefully there’s just a couple facets, ‘we’ve got to do this better or we’ve got to do that better’ in the second period and if we do that, we’ll be fine,” Boudreau continued.
“Last game, for example, it was five minutes. We had total control of the game. It was still 2-1 with 4:25 left in the second then we got caught on a long line change, we got caught in a bad D-zone situation and it unraveled. Then we re-grabbed ourself in the third period and came out differently. But we’ve got to be able to do the second period thing as well.”
The Oilers will be going with Anders Nilsson in goal tonight.
“Anders has been very solid,” said McLellan. “He got tested right off the bat in Dallas with 52 shots and created a level of confidence that was second-to-none there, both in himself and the team in him. Every other time he’s been called upon he’s done a pretty good job. The Washington game, a lot of people will point out he gave up a number of goals but there were some pretty good looks in those situations so can’t completely blame him individually.”
Matt Hendricks does not play for the second straight game. Coach McLellan talked about how big of a loss that is for the team.
“He won’t play tonight. He had a quick skate today and it looks like it’s improving but he’s not good enough to start and finish the night so we’re not going to run that risk.”
There are plenty of elements that Hendricks brings to the rink that the Oilers will miss, said McLellan.
“Losing Matty we lose energy, we lose grit, we lose a lot of passion from one individual. He triggers a lot of emotion on our team. Then you throw on all the on-ice attributes. Shot blocking, penalty kill, toughness. It affects our team.”
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (5-10-0) at DUCKS (5-7-3)
TV: SN1, FS-W
Season series: The Anaheim Ducks swept four games from the Edmonton Oilers last season, allowing a total of five goals. Forward Jakob Silfverberg had four assists for the Ducks, and forward Ryan Getzlaf had two goals and an assist. Goalie Frederik Andersen was 3-0-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average. Forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had two goals for the Oilers.
Oilers team scope: Forward Matt Hendricks left practice Tuesday and is questionable. "He was a question mark after the pregame skate (Sunday) in Chicago and didn't play, but he's had two days here to recover," coach Todd McLellan said after practice. "Our lineup decisions will be made tomorrow close to game time." McLellan said forward Luke Gazdic, who has been a healthy scratch the past two games, likely will be in the lineup. The Oilers are three points behind the Ducks in the Pacific Division. "Their record isn't indicative of their abilities and likely where they'll end up. ... This will be a real big test for us," McLellan said. Defenseman Andrej Sekera scored his first goal with Edmonton on Sunday. "There's no easy night in this league," he said. "We are looking at it as any other game and will try to get two points out of it."
Ducks team scope: Forward Rickard Rackell, who has missed the past three games with an upper-body injury, practiced Tuesday. "We'll see how he feels tomorrow morning," coach Bruce Boudreau told the Ducks website after practice. "There's always a possibility (of him playing tomorrow), but he's been out, so I'd say he's questionable." Anaheim continues a three-game homestand after a 4-3 overtime loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Monday. "[Edmonton has] a different coach and approach to things," Boudreau said. "They've got a different attitude. They definitely have the talent. We know our hands are full because these are teams we've beaten in the past. They're ready to put us down. We better be ready to play." The Ducks have nine points in their past five games (4-0-1).