LAS VEGAS, NV - With one important divisional victory in the bank to start their three-game road trip, the Oilers quickly shift their focus to another key all-Pacific matchup tonight as they visit the Vegas Golden Knights.
Connor McDavid scored a pair of goals including the sudden-death winner as Edmonton opened the trip with a 3-2 overtime win over the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night in Glendale. The victory put them seven points back of the Coyotes for the final Western Conference wildcard spot with one game in hand and 11 remaining on the schedule.
The Oilers took a few moments to celebrate their big win last night after Oscar Klefbom set up McDavid for the OT winner, but by the time they got back to the locker room their sights were already set on their next opponent.
"The win gives us a lot of confidence, a lot of energy coming into tonight," Klefbom said following the team's morning meeting in Sin City. "It's a lot of important, fun games to play here now against really good opponents, so we've got to be ready."
"It was a step in the right direction last night," echoed Alex Chiasson, who picked up an assist last night when he sprung McDavid for his shorthanded tally in the first period. "We're going to have our hands full tonight. We're playing a team that's got a lot of depth. They play fast and this is a tough building to play in, so we're looking forward to the challenge."
Much like the majority of teams in the conference right now, the Golden Knights have been playing well as of late with a 7-2-1 record in their last 10 games including a 2-1 win over the Dallas Stars in their last outing on Friday.
The Oilers know they'll have tall task in front of them against the defending conference champions, who present a balanced scoring attack with 10 players on their roster boasting 26 or more points this season. By comparison, the Oilers have five players in that category.
"They have some good chemistry between their lines," said Chiasson, who got well acquainted with the league's newest squad when his Washington Capitals beat them to win last year's Stanley Cup. "They're a team that's hard to play against, because they fast and they compete hard… It's going to be a good test for us tonight."
The Oilers playoff hopes are still alive thanks to an 8-3-2 record over their last 13 games, with nine of those matchups decided by a one-goal margin. It may not be the post-season just yet, but it's certainly playoff-like hockey across the league right now.
"Teams are trying to get closer and closer to the playoffs, and we feel like we're right there," said Chiasson, who has a career-high 20 goals and needs just three points to set a new personal best (36) in that category as well. "At this time of the year, there's a lot of emotions in the games and teams are playing their hearts out. It's the best hockey to be played."
Tonight marks the third leg of the four-game season series between Edmonton and Vegas. Both prior contests were held at Rogers Place in Edmonton, with the Golden Knights winning 6-3 on Nov. 18 and the Oilers exacting some revenge with a 2-1 decision on Dec. 1.
Mikko Koskinen stopped 31 of the 32 shots he faced in that low-scoring victory and turned aside 28 of 30 to get his 22nd win of the season last night in Glendale. The Oilers did not announce a starting goalie for tonight vs. Vegas during their media availability.
On the flip side, Edmonton is confirmed to be facing the Golden Knights' backup netminder Malcolm Subban, as Marc-Andre Fleury is listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Subban is 4-7-0 with a 3.13 GAA and .902 save percentage this season. The team also called up netminder Maxime Lagace from the Chicago Wolves on an emergency basis.
-- Ryan Frankson, EdmontonOilers.com
OILERS (32-32-7) at GOLDEN KNIGHTS (39-27-5)
TV: 8:00 p.m. MDT; Televised on Sportsnet West
Tonight's game is the third of four meetings between the two teams this season and the first in Las Vegas. The two clubs met earlier this year at Rogers Place with the Golden Knights winning 6-3 on November 18 and the Oilers winning 2-1 on December 1.
Leon Draisaitl has three points in two games to lead the Oilers while Connor McDavid has a pair of goals. In his lone start against Vegas, Mikko Koskinen stopped 31 of 32 shots in a win.
William Karlsson and Jonathan Marchessault each have two goals and three points for the Golden Knights against the Oilers to lead the way.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers picked up a huge two points with an overtime win on Saturday night against the Arizona Coyotes. The win moved the Oilers to within seven points of the Coyotes with a game in hand and narrowed the gap between themselves and the three teams between them and the Coyotes. Overall, the Oilers are 8-3-2 since February 19 playing some of their best hockey of the season in an effort to sneak into that last playoff spot.
Golden Knights team scope:
The Golden Knights are in third place in the Pacific Division, 11 points back of the San Jose Sharks for second. They are 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.
Depth in scoring is the calling card of the Golden Knights, who don't have a single player with more than 50 points but they have eight players with more than 30. Alex Tuch leads the way in scoring with 48 points in 63 games. Max Pacioretty leads the team in goals with 22, in 58 games.
Newly acquired winger Mark Stone has six points in eight games (two goals, four assists) since being added from Ottawa at the trade deadline.
By the Numbers:
These two teams have been relatively equal since after the all-star break. The Oilers are 9-8-4 while the Golden Knights are 10-8-1. ... When tied after two periods, the Oilers are quite a bit better than Vegas at 9-4-1 versus 10-8-3. Both teams are 16-6-2 when leading after one period but the Golden Knights are 11-12-0 when trailing after one while the Oilers are 7-14-2.
With the overtime win on Saturday night in Arizona, the Oilers are now a completely even 200-200 in franchise history in overtime games. McDavid's goal moved him into a tie with Draisaitl and Jari Kurri with seven career overtime winners.
OILERS -Jesse Puljujarvi (hip) is out
GOLDEN KNIGHTS - Erik Haula (undisclosed) is on IR