DETROIT, MI - After a tough 8-3 loss in St. Louis, the Oilers get a chance to redeem themselves less than 24 hours later with their first ever game at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
"For me, the best thing is we're playing again tonight," said Oilers forward Mark Letestu, who is playing in his 500th career NHL game this evening. "We don't have to sit on this for two or three days. I don't think there are many guys who slept well last night. This affects all of us. We all know we're in it and expect a much better effort."
Letestu added that the struggles, he believes, are on the players and not anyone else as the club has limped its way to a 7-12-2 start to the season.
"It's player related. This isn't a coaching problem," he stated. "This isn't a players aren't here type of thing. This is on us. We have to be better. We have to adhere to details and play our system and buy in together. That's what everybody alludes to when they think about last year. That team was all in and playing for each other. We've just got to get back to that."
Oilers head coach Todd McLellan said a full team effort is going to be needed to get the Oilers back on track this evening.
"Tonight gives us an opportunity to straighten some things out," McLellan remarked. "That happens individually. First of all, everybody shows up and takes their performance level and commitment level to where it needs to be and then it's followed by pairs and lines and units of five. And it's sustained for a full 60 minutes."
One of the areas the Oilers have dropped off quite a bit is on scoring chances. In nine of the first 13 games of the season, Edmonton came out on top when it came to outchancing the opposition nine times despite a 4-8-1 record at that time. In the eight games since, the Oilers have only outchanced the opposition twice (3-4-1).
"A lot of focus is always made on chances for and chances against," McLellan noted when informed of that stat. "That's the world we're in now with analytics and everybody has a formula to evaluate players and teams and coaches. I'm not just talking about the Oilers, I'm talking about the sport as a whole and different metrics that teams use."
The Edmonton bench boss added that the game played in the middle of the ice is just as important and is certainly being neglected at times by his club while it struggles.
"We're paid to score goals and we're paid to prevent them. But those are at the ends of the spectrum. It's what happens in between. There's a lot of work that goes into scoring a goal and a lot of work that goes into preventing it. We're at both ends trying to get the job done but everything in between isn't happening at the level that it needs to."
Goaltender Cam Talbot has also had a rough go of it at times this season with a 3.19 goals-against average and .900 save percentage a far cry from last season's 2.39/.919 but McLellan was quick to point out that it's on everybody to contribute to help the goaltender, who will start tonight.
"Based on my experience, you help the goaltender," McLellan began. "It's not just Dustin Schwartz as a goalie coach or the coaching staff. The group around him: the six defencemen who put the jersey on protect the goaltender. They make simple plays and they get it out so he can get into the game. He's not facing a layup from the slot to begin with."
McLellan added, "A lot of times when I'm asked these questions, we single out a man or a goaltender. But it's the group. The group has to be better at taking care of each other in all situations. Instead of playing at the end of the spectrums, play in the middle and see what happens."
Ryan Stanton was recalled from AHL Bakersfield this morning but won't likely play this evening having played last night in California and travelling all day today. The reason for the recall was a lower body/groin injury to Matt Benning who only played one shift in the third period.
McLellan made sure to point out the injury had nothing to do with Benning's fight with Vladimir Tarasenko. He also added that Anton Slepyshev will not play tonight.
Tonight will be Mark Letestu's 500th career NHL game and his family will be in the stands to watch him play. Letestu was asked if he ever felt he'd reach 500 games back when he was playing with the AJHL's Bonnyville Pontiacs.
"At that time, you're praying for one (game) and you're a long ways away from making that happen. When you get to one, you want 10 then from 10 to 100 and before you know it you're playing in five (hundred). Time goes fast but it's a pretty cool accomplishment, though.
"You don't think you're going to the NHL when you go undrafted and you're 20 and in Bonnyville playing tier 2 even though you're named the most valuable player in the league."
Letestu parlayed that 20-year-old season in which he registered 105 points and 50 goals in 58 games into a scholarship at Western Michigan University where he truly had a breakout campaign with 24 goals and 46 points in 37 games, earning him a professional contract with the Pittsburgh Penguins. At age 24, he played his first career NHL game with the Pens.
-- Marc Ciampa, EdmontonOilers.com
OILERS (7-12-2) at RED WINGS (10-8-3)
TV: 5 p.m. MT; Televised on Sportsnet West
The Oilers will get the Detroit Red Wings on their tail end of a back-to-back, having played in St. Louis on Tuesday night.
The game against the Red Wings is a rematch of their November 5, showdown at Rogers Place, in which the Oilers dropped a disappointing 4-0 decision. Four different Red Wings players scored, while the Oilers couldn't generate any offence of their own in the game.
The Oilers have struggled against the Red Wings, going 4-13-4 in their last 21 games versus Detroit. Three of those four wins have come in the last five games.
The Oilers are 1-7-3 in their last 11 games in Detroit.
Oilers team scope:
The Oilers have dropped three straight games, two to begin this five-game road trip.
Edmonton looks to avoid four straight losses for the second time this season, dropping four straight in October.
Connor McDavid leads the team in scoring with 26 points (10-16-26). Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is second on the team with 17 (8-9-17).
Red Wings team scope:
The Red Wings have had two days off from games since a 4-3 overtime loss against Colorado on Sunday. Detroit has won four of their last seven, including that 4-0 win in Edmonton.
Dylan Larkin leads Detroit in scoring this season with 20 points (4-16-20) through 21 games. Anthony Mantha is second on the team with 19 (10-9-19).
By the Numbers:
As of Tuesday, Connor McDavid was second in the NHL in percentage of team points this season (50%) and has an NHL best 125 points since the start of last season. The Oilers have allowed three or more goals in each of their last three games.
OILERS: A. Sekera (knee) is on IR, A. Slepyshev (groin) is on IR
RED WINGS: J. Franzen (concussion-like symptoms) is on IR, M. Frk (groin) is day-to-day