LOS ANGELES, CA - The Edmonton Oilers wrap up a four-game road trip tonight against the Los Angeles Kings as they try and conclude the trip with a .500 record while battling injuries and the flu bug throughout the lineup.
“There’s still a potential later on today that somebody could come up,” said Oilers head coach Todd McLellan. “Pouliot and Ference should be available to us today. Hendricks has a chance to play as well. But then there’s others who are showing up not quite well. But that’s okay. We’ll find a lineup and we’ll put it on the ice. And I’m confident our guys will show up and play real hard.”
McLellan didn’t go into specifics on who might be out or who is healthy but he did talk about needing some depth down the middle — both tonight and down the road.
“There’s potential for that,” he said when asked about the possibility of putting Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Leon Draisiatl both at centre and on separate lines. “We’ve got to find some depth through the middle of the rink. We got away with a win when we had those guys together but I don’t think it’s going to continue working that way so we’re probably going to have to split them up and look at playing Leon in the middle and Nuge in the middle. But again, that depends on health and availability of players for tonight’s game.”
Cam Talbot will get the start in goal tonight after Anders Nilsson played each of the last two games.
“We’re trying to do a couple things simultaneously,” said McLellan when asked about the method behind his goaltending rotation this season. “One is develop goaltending. Both of these goaltenders are relatively young when you look at their career stats and status. They’re both trying to establish themselves as number one in the league and we have to give each of them that opportunity.
“Number two, we’re trying to win games and it’s not just about the goaltender trying to grab the ball and run with it. I think we’ve had good goaltending performances some nights and not won the game. That’s why it’s not always win and stay in the net or lose and come out. That’s not the way it works. Sometimes you have a good performance and you get the opportunity to go back in.”
Talbot’s last game was a 4-2 loss in Chicago against the Blackhawks. Prior to that, he dropped a 5-4 decision to the Flames back on Halloween.
“We’re looking at Cam now to recover. He’s had some good practice days with Schwarzie (goaltending coach Dustin Schwartz) and the team. He was very good early and probably not where he wanted to be the last four or five. We’re looking at him having the opportunity to reestablish himself.”
McLellan added that he doesn’t want Talbot looking over his shoulder.
“It’s like any position. Competition’s healthy, I think. Cam is in a position where we made a trade to bring him in and probably anointed as the number-one guy. But Nuge has to compete with Connor for number-one ice time down the middle and Taylor and Jordan Eberle, if they’re playing on different lines they have to compete for that as well.
“At the stage we’re at with our team’s evolution and development, competition’s great. I don’t want goaltenders looking over their shoulders and worrying about their teammate but I do want them to know that it’s a competitive position and we want to keep it that way.”
Talbot knows he’s up for a challenge this evening, particularly with the team hurting and ill.
“Obviously when the team’s down some bodies and not feeling great you need guys to step up and tonight I’m looking to be one of those guys,” Talbot said.
HENDRICKS READY TO GO
After missing the last three games with his foot injury continue to hamper him, Matt Hendricks said this morning that he was now set to make his return tonight.
“Ready to go,” said Hendricks. “I think we’re on the back side of the injury now — fingers crossed.”
The veteran Oilers winger talked about the frustration of the injury.
“It’s one of those things where we just couldn’t control the swelling and inflammation in the joint and it wasn’t stable anymore.”
The injury feels a lot better than it did heading into his last return to the lineup in early November against Philadelphia. Hendricks wanted to ensure that was the case due to the toll the body takes in actual game action.
“I was feeling good in practice. Obviously, the physical side of practice isn’t quite game-like. Once I got out there, starting hitting, putting all my force on it, it just didn’t react the way we expected. Or very well.”.
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (6-11-0) at KINGS (10-6-0)
TV: CBC, SN, FS-W
Season series: Tanner Pearson’s power-play goal with 3:26 remaining gave the Los Angeles Kings a 3-2 victory at the Edmonton Oilers on Oct. 25. Oilers rookie Connor McDavid thought he scored the tying goal with 3.8 seconds remaining. Kings goalie Jonathan Quick covered the puck, and officials ruled it was not across the goal line. Video review was inconclusive, upholding the ruling of no goal.
Oilers team scope: Forward Benoit Pouliot, who missed a 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday with the flu, skated Friday, as did defenseman Andrew Ference, who has not played since Oct. 31. "They're getting close to normal again," coach Todd McLellan said." Forward Matt Hendricks, who has missed the past three games with a foot injury, skated and told the Oilers website he is hoping to play. "I'm sure it'll be a game-time decision," Hendricks said. Edmonton assigned forward Anton Slepyshev to Bakersfield of the American Hockey League; he had one assist in 11 games for Edmonton. The Oilers are 1-3-0 since McDavid, the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, was sidelined with a fractured collarbone.
Kings team scope: Forward Anze Kopitar, who took a shot off his lower leg in a 2-1 win against the New York Islanders on Thursday, did not skate Friday but is fine, assistant coach John Stevens told LA Kings Insider. "He's had a maintenance day," Stevens told the website. "He's a pretty resilient guy, so I don't have any further update than that." Forward Jordan Weal, who has played two games this season, took Kopitar's spot on a line with Tanner Pearson and Marian Gaborik, an indicator the Kings don't think Kopitar will miss time. This is the final game of a five-game homestand (2-2-0). The Kings play the next five games on the road before returning to Los Angeles on Nov. 28.