NEW YORK, NY - The Oilers take on the New York Rangers at the historic Madison Square Garden Saturday afternoon. Because of the early puck drop, the team won't have a morning skate but they had a good practice Friday.
The players are pretty excited to step onto MSG ice and try and make it three wins in a row to start this trip.
"It's cool," said Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse. "You know and have heard a lot of stories of games and events that have taken place in this building so it's nice to have the opportunity to come here and play Saturday afternoon."
Edmonton's 3-2 overtime win against New Jersey on Thursday was the first time all season they've gotten back-to-back victories. There's a sense in the room that the team is starting to get back to the identity that made them so successful last season.
"I think for us right now, you can see it," said winger Patrick Maroon. "We're getting pucks deep, we're going back to our identity. We are a fast team, we can move laterally and we can make plays off the rush, but I think our strengths are playing good defensively, being strong on the boards, getting pucks deep and grinding them down low."
"It's the first time we've put back-to-back wins together, which is something we have to look at as a positive and we've got to try to build off the momentum we've gained these past two games and not let it slip," said Nurse.
For the Oilers, it's crucial they don't let their effort level slip from the first two games because back-to-back tilts against the Rangers and then Washington close out this challenging trip.
"We've been on the road trip for two games and these next two are going to come really fast," said Head Coach Todd McLellan. "For us to maintain momentum and traction, it's really important that we get a good effort tomorrow afternoon. Throughout the lineup, again, it can't be one or two lines, it's got to be everybody and we need to continue to get the good goaltending we've had on the road and see if our power play can score one."
Anton Slepyshev couldn't finish the game in New Jersey and was placed on IR on Friday morning. That means the Oilers recalled forward Jesse Puljujarvi from the Bakersfield Condors in the American Hockey League.
Puljujarvi has one goal and four assists in 10 games for the Condors this season. The fourth-overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft needs to show he's ready for a top-six role right away because that's where he'll likely start against the Rangers.
"The way the American League is set up, they haven't played a lot of games," said McLellan. "The shorter schedule, and a weekend league, he hasn't been able to play a tremendous amount yet but we've got to bring him up. We'll likely play him in the top six and we look for his shot and ability to score. We'll see if he's been able to work on some of the things we asked him to defensively and his checking skills."
On Friday, the lineup remained the same during rushes with the exception of Jujhar Khaira skating with Milan Lucic and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Puljujarvi's likely destination when he arrives.
TALBOT RETURNS TO MSG
Cam Talbot is likely to get the start against his former team when the Oilers face the Rangers. He has been a big asset to the Oilers on the road this season, posting a 3-2-1 record with a .938 save percentage and 2.00 goals-against average away from Rogers Place.
"He's been huge," said Nurse. "I think his play speaks for itself. Every time we've needed a big save he's been there and especially it's why we've put these last two together."
If Talbot is matched up against his former goalie partner Henrik Lundqvist, it will be a challenge he's eager to live up to.
"It's always a battle," said Talbot. "He's one of the best of all-time and it's not easy to beat him in any situation. I look forward to the challenge again tomorrow."
This is the first meeting between the Oilers and Rangers this season. The two teams will play again on Saturday, March 3, at Rogers Place.
Oilers team scope:
There's been no shortage of drama in the Tri-State Area for the Oilers. The club is on a two-game winning streak after consecutive overtime victories against the New York Islanders and New Jersey Devils.
Leon Draisaitl scored with 17 seconds left in the extra frame versus the Devils on Thursday to win 3-2. Connor McDavid scored the game-winning goal on Tuesday against the Isles just 38 seconds into the overtime period. Both players assisted on each other's game winners.
The Oilers placed Anton Slepyshev - who scored Thursday - on Injured Reserve Friday. The club recalled forward Jesse Puljujarvi from the Bakersfield Condors.
Rangers team scope:
New York is the hottest team in the League at the moment, currently in the midst of a five-game winning streak that has seen the team beat quality competition including the Vegas Golden Knights, Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Rangers are also decently healthy, with their only current injury being a day-to-day illness to forward Boo Nieves, who could return to the lineup Saturday.
"Boo was able to skate yesterday and do off-ice," Rangers Head Coach Alain Vigneault said Friday, per NewYorkRangers.com. "He said he felt real good yesterday and skated again today."
By the Numbers:
Leon Draisaitl's overtime goal on Thursday was his fourth career regular season OT winner. He is four overtime goals away from surpassing Oilers legend Jari Kurri for the franchise lead in that category. Kurri has seven career regular season overtime goals.
The Rangers power play is 15-for-63, good for fifth in the League with a 23.8 percent clip. At home, the team is 11-for-47, good for ninth League-wide at 23.4 percent.
Defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk is second in Rangers scoring with five goals, 11 assists and 16 points. Eight of those 16 points have come on the power play.
OILERS - Drake Caggiula (ankle) is day-to-day; Anton Slepyshev (groin) is out; Andrej Sekera (knee) is out.