News, notes and more from Sunday, including the Oilers signing Cam Talbot to a three-year contract extension with comments from Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli.
TAMPA, FL - The Edmonton Oilers are going for the Florida sweep tonight as they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning, but they’ll head into battle without one of their top forwards.
During the second period of Monday night’s 4-2 victory over the Panthers, centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins blocked a shot with his glove, injuring his hand and sending him back home to Edmonton on Tuesday to have it examined.
Head Coach Todd McLellan said Tuesday morning RNH will be out of the lineup anywhere from six to eight weeks. The Oilers know the absence of the talented fifth-year pivot will be felt, but they’re confident they have the personnel to fill the void and hopefully extend their current two-game winning streak.
“He’s a key player for us,” said fellow centre Leon Draisaitl, the team’s second-leading scorer at 35 points in just 37 games. “He produces a lot and plays a lot of minutes… He kills penalties, he plays on the power play, he produces offensively, he takes face-offs. He’s just an all-around player and a very, very valuable guy for our team.”
Draisaitl’s forward line with Taylor Hall and Teddy Purcell generated three of the four Oilers goals against the Panthers. They’ll need to keep rolling with RNH sidelined.
“It’s definitely going to hurt, but I think we have the skill and the players to replace him,” Draisaitl said. “Obviously now it’s time for other guys to step up, pick that up and help the team out.”
Coach McLellan said the German’s line will continue to be a focal point for the opposition.
“I don’t think it changes anything at all for Leon,” he said. “He’s been the target of others teams’ checking defencemen, other teams’ checking line, the size, the strength. Their game plan will centre around his line and him… But the others have to pick up the slack.”
Another centre, Anton Lander, who was scratched vs. Florida, will draw back into the lineup with RNH out. He’ll have an opportunity to step up his production, with just two assists in 45 games thus far.
“It’s always tough to see a teammate go down,” said the Swede. “It’s not fun. It’s really hard for us. But there’s nothing we can do about it right now. We’ve got to find a way to fill that big hole from Ryan. I think we have the players that can do that.”
Just like last night against the Panthers, tonight’s game vs. Tampa Bay is a chance for the Oilers to atone for a recent loss against the same squad on home ice. Just 11 days ago, the Lightning visited Edmonton with the home side generating a 2-0 lead before the visitors stormed back with three unanswered goals in the third period to win 3-2.
The blown lead was extra frustrating for the Oilers as all three goals against bounced off one of their own players before finding the back of the net. Edmonton dominated Tampa at times during the contest, including a particularly strong middle frame that saw them outshoot the opposition 14-8.
“We beat their pressure really well and we had a lot of scoring chances,” Draisaitl recalled. “We just have to make sure we bury them and don’t give them a chance to get back in the game.”
Victor Hedman led Tampa’s comeback, getting credit for one goal and assisting on the other two. The Swedish blueliner is +11 with 25 points in 44 games this season.
“We had the lead, that’s always something good,” Lander said of the previous matchup. “We have to be careful with their defencemen jumping up in the rush. Hedman was a big part of that last game.”
ANDERS IN NET
Cam Talbot has been outstanding between the pipes for the Oilers over the last month, continuing his hot streak with 31 of 33 saves vs. Florida on Monday. But with the Oilers playing their second game of a back-to-back tonight, they’ll start Anders Nilsson to give Talbot some rest.
“He’s been a big part of our ability to put some points in the bank over the last little bit,” Coach McLellan said of Talbot. “When you have a goaltender that’s hot, you’d like to play him every minute. But based on the amount of games and the type of travel we’ve incurred over the last week, I don’t think it’s a healthy situation to go back-to-back tonight.”
While Nilsson has given way to Talbot recently, the big Swede was Edmonton’s go-to guy between the pipes for most of November and early December. He backstopped the team to a perfect five-game homestand.
“I can recall (Anders) carrying the team for seven or eight games early in the year,” McLellan said. “There’s no reason why he can’t get back to that.”
Here’s Edmonton’s projected lineup for tonight vs. the Lightning:
Season series: Victor Hedman had a goal and two assists to help the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 3-2 win against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place on Jan. 8. Steven Stamkos scored the game-winner with 4:09 remaining.
Oilers team scope: Edmonton will be without center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who sustained what coach Todd McLellan labeled a "long-term injury" to his hand during a 4-2 win at the Florida Panthers on Monday; Nugent-Hopkins likely will be replaced in the lineup by Anton Lander, who was a healthy scratch. The Oilers could also be missing forward Lauri Korpikoski, who sustained a foot injury while blocking a shot during a game against the Calgary Flames on Saturday. "Would be nice to have a full lineup just so we could really see what we've got," McLellan told the Edmonton Journal. Goalie Anders Nilsson is likely to start after Cam Talbot made 31 saves Monday.
Lightning team scope: Tampa Bay is seeking its sixth consecutive win Tuesday. The Lightning did not practice Monday after extending its win streak with a 3-1 victory against the Florida Panthers on Sunday. Goalie Ben Bishop likely will start; he has allowed two or fewer goals in 21 of his past 26 starts. Tampa Bay has won six of seven since forward Ondrej Palat returned from an injured left ankle. "There's no secret he's a huge part of our team," coach Jon Cooper told the Tampa Bay Times. "He's a complete player who plays the whole 200 feet. He can play anywhere in the lineup. He's one of those guys you don't read about in the newspapers every single night, but he's probably the reason the guys are in the newspapers - that unsung hero type. As a coach, you wish you could have more of Palats. But when you do get them, you're glad you have them. And when they're out of the lineup, you don't realize how much you miss them. That's what he is to us."