NEW YORK, NY - The Oilers will look to extend their season-opening win streak to five games on Saturday when they conclude the New York portion of their road trip against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
Edmonton opened the 2019-20 campaign with back-to-back home victories before heading out on this four-game road trip that has featured a 5-2 win over the New York Islanders on Tuesday followed by a 4-3 shootout decision against the New Jersey Devils on Thursday.
The team is just the third in NHL history to win each of its four games to start the season in come-from-behind fashion. Their never-quit mentality was on full display during Thursday's victory over the Devils as they erased 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 deficits before prevailing in the breakaway competition as Leon Draisaitl scored the winner and Mikko Koskinen was perfect between the pipes.
"We have a resilient team," said defenceman Darnell Nurse, who set up Draisaitl's goal and logged 24:24 TOI against New Jersey. "There were a lot of opportunities last night where we could have just shut it down and said tonight's not our night, but we didn't, we battled back and we found a way to win a game that wasn't our 'A' game. Over the course of an 82-game season that's going to happen some nights and you've got to find a way to win."
While the Oilers weren't overly thrilled with their performance against the Devils, they took solace in the fact that they were still able to collect two points and extend their win streak heading into MSG on Saturday.
"We've found ways to win four different games," said Nurse, who has a goal and three assists thus far. "We know there's a lot of room for improvement. Last night we felt like we should have played a better game, but that's the beauty of this league - you get to play again two days later. It'll be good for us to get back on the ice. The success has come from us playing within our system, so that needs to continue."
Oilers captain Connor McDavid, who was tied for the League lead in scoring with 10 points heading into Friday night's slate of games, echoed Nurse's sentiments and lauded the team's variety of contributors.
From James Neal's seven goals, to Draisaitl's eight points, to Nurse and Oscar Klefbom shouldering big loads on the back end, to Koskinen's recent heroics between the pipes, there have been many reasons for success.
"When you're 4-0, there's lots of positive stuff going on," McDavid said following Friday's practice. "We've been resilient, we're staying in games and sticking with it. We're finding different ways. Different people have stepped up, so it's been good."
The Oilers will tangle with a Rangers squad that hasn't seen much action yet this season, playing just two games and winning both of them. The Blueshirts opened the campaign with a 6-4 win over the Winnipeg Jets and followed that up with a 4-1 decision against the Ottawa Senators last Saturday.
"They're coming off a week off, which is pretty strange, but they had the week off so we expect them to have some jump," McDavid said. "They're going to have some life, but who knows how sharp they'll be? We need to be prepared to have a good start, because they're going to have lots of legs."
Much like Edmonton's previous opponent New Jersey, the Rangers made a significant splash during the off-season, selecting Finnish phenom Kaapo Kako second overall at the NHL Draft and signing highly-coveted free-agent forward Artemi Panarin to a seven-year, $81.5 million contract.
Veteran centreman Mika Zibanejad has been their top performer with a ridiculous eight points in just two games, while Panarin has made an immediate impact as well with two goals and two assists.
"They're a good team, highly skilled," Nurse said. "They have a great work ethic, so it's going to be a good battle. It's always fun to play at MSG, especially those afternoon games, but it'll be a tough task."
Head Coach Dave Tippett said there could be some changes with the bottom-six forward group with Josh Archibald (illness) and Alex Chiasson (illness) ready to return to action.
Both wingers participated in Friday's line rushes, while Patrick Russell and Joakim Nygard appeared to be the extras, but the forwards will be confirmed during Saturday's pre-game warmup.
Tippett added the coaching staff had not yet decided whether it will be Koskinen (2-0-0, 2.40 GAA, .914 SV%) or Mike Smith (2-0-0, 3.50 GAA, .892 SV%) tending the twine.
Saturday's matinee meetup between the Rangers and Oilers is the first of two meetings between the clubs this season. The season series concludes at Rogers Place on New Year's Eve.
Last season, both Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl had game-winning goals and four points each in two games against the Rangers as the Oilers skated away with all four points from their two matchups in a 2-1 afternoon victory on October 13 and 3-2 overtime win at Rogers Place on March 11.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers are a perfect 4-0-0 to start the season and became the third team in NHL history to overcome a deficit to win each of their first four games in a season after coming from behind to defeat the New Jersey Devils 4-3 in a shootout on Thursday.
Connor McDavid scored the decisive tying goal with 1:06 on the clock to send the game to overtime and the shootout, where Leon Drasiaitl scored the only goal on the final attempt.
James Neal tallied his seventh goal in just four games to set a new franchise record, beating out Wayne Gretzky who scored six in 1983-84 and Glenn Anderson who also tallied the same total as The Great One in 1987-88.
Special teams continue to be a crucial part of the club's early success after they received two power-play goals versus the Devils and didn't allow one against to improve both their PP (40.0 percent) and penalty kill (92.3 percent) to fourth overall in the League.
Rangers team scope:
It's been a long wait for the Rangers to play their third game of the season after last defeating the Ottawa Senators 4-1 that Saturday prior to their meeting with Edmonton.
Mika Zibanejad has stormed out of the gate with four goals and four assists in his first two games to sit tied for third alongside Draisaitl in League scoring with eight points despite playing a minimum of two games less than his counterparts.
By the Numbers:
Neal remains top in the League for goals with seven... McDavid is tied for the League lead with Patrik Laine in points with 10 (3G, 7A) through his opening three games, and Draisaitl is tied for third with eight (2G, 6A)...
Mikko Koskinen is 2-0-0 with 53 saves on 58 shots in the last two starts for the Oilers, compiling a .914 save percentage and 2.41 goals-against average...
OILERS - Alex Chiasson (illness) is day-to-day; Josh Archibald (illness) is on IR; Adam Larsson (fractured right fibula) is on IR.