EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers will try to shake the effects of a 7-4 loss to Washington on Friday night when they host another good opponent in Los Angeles tonight.
It will be a test of the Oilers bounceback, which they displayed some signs of in Saturday’s practice.
“I think we’re going to find that out tonight. It was a good practice yesterday,” said Head Coach Todd McLellan. “I think it had some substance to it and focus, so that’s a good sign. I think we’ll take the test tonight and it’s a real good team to take the test against. They’re playing real well.”
The Kings have won four games in a row after an 0-3 start.
“It’s a really solid team,” said Oilers winger Nail Yakupov. “They’ve got really big bodies, so we’ve got to try to chip the puck behind them, make them turn and create some chances in the offensive zone. We can’t cheat against this team either. They have really good offensive players too and they can shoot. Their PK is really dangerous too, if you’re going to play on the power play. We have to be aware. We have to be real careful on the blueline because those couple guys can really score those shorthanded goals. Just play the game, have fun and see what happens.”
Los Angeles won three of their five games against Edmonton last season. Jonathan Quick, who is likely to start in net for the Kings, is 9-0-2 in his last 11 against the Oilers.
Cam Talbot will start tonight against the Kings.
YAKUPOV HEATING UP
Taken first overall in 2012, Nail Yakupov was drafted to be an offensive weapon for the Oilers. The 22-year-old winger is heating up in his fourth NHL season. He has seven points in eight games this year and is riding a four-game point streak. In those four games, he has two goals and four assists.
The offensive resurgence can be tracked back to last season, when Yakupov finished the back half of 2014-15 strong. In his last 36 games played, Yakupov has 11 goals and 16 assists for 27 points. If that pace were stretched out over a full season, he’d nearly double his career high of 33 points (2014-15).
“I feel great. I feel so much confidence,” said Yakupov. “I’m so confident on the ice and just trying to have fun on the ice. I try to do my best, try to work for the team and try to do everything coach says, play his system, don’t cheat and I’ve still got to improve on some things. We work on it, we watch the videos. I just want to show my game, show my best game every day and every game. Just working hard.”
Asked what it’s like coming to the rink when you’re feeling hot, Yakupov said it’s “unbelievable” but quickly noted that team success is more important.
DAVIDSON BACK IN
24-year-old defenceman Brandon Davidson has been patient this season. The young blueliner has played just one game, a 4-2 loss in Dallas on October 13. But Davidson’s wait to return to the lineup comes to an end tonight with him skating with Eric Gryba against the Kings.
“It’s great that I’m in tonight,” said Davidson. “It’s been a little bit of an adjustment, going from being high on the list to kind of bottom of the list. It’s been an adjustment for me, for sure, but definitely a learning curve. I think that over the past little while, not playing, I’ve been able to learn some stuff. But I’m plenty prepared for this game. I’m ready to go, I’m excited and I can’t wait to get out there.”
Davidson has the strength to be a physical presence on the backend and that could be what he’s asked to do tonight against a tough Los Angeles team.
“That’s kind of a style I can defend. I like to be a physical player and move pucks,” said Davidson. “That’s what we’re gonna need tonight. They’re a big team over there and that’s what it’s going to take. We’re ready for it, and I think it’s a big test for us tonight and a big test for myself as well.”
Despite the time off, McLellan believes Davidson will bring confidence to the team.
“I think he’s practiced well, he feels good about himself, he’s in the NHL now for a few weeks and he has size and he can skate,” said Davidson. “If he can retrieve pucks and we can beat their forecheck, that’s all we’re going to ask of him and he’ll have a good night that way.”
Davidson is not the only change to the Oilers lineup. It looks like Iiro Pakarinen will make his season debut after being recalled on Thursday from Bakersfield.
Season series: The Los Angeles Kings won three of five games against the Edmonton Oilers last season, with each of Edmonton's wins at Rexall Place. Kings center Anze Kopitar led all scorers with eight points (one goal). Defenseman Oscar Klefbom and forward Anton Linder each had three assists to lead the Oilers.
Kings team scope: Goaltender Jonathan Quick, 9-0-2 in his past 11 decisions against Edmonton, is likely to start. He and forward Tyler Toffoli have helped Los Angeles win four in a row after it started with three losses. "We're playing harder and a little more desperate," center Anze Kopitar after a 3-0 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Friday. "We didn't start off very hot and now we're building." Quick has allowed two goals on 89 shots in winning his past three starts. Toffoli has six goals, including two against the Hurricanes, and has a four-game streak.
Oilers team scope: Coach Todd McLellan spent part of Saturday meeting with a few of his players after noting his displeasure with several in a 7-4 home loss to the Washington Capitals on Friday. "We're going to be a really good hockey club someday," McLellan told the Oilers website. "But to get there, we can't have individuals missing in action. We have to have something from every individual every night." Forward Iiro Pakarinen was at right wing on a line with Mark Letestu and Luke Gazdic at practice and could make his season debut. "I thought he looked strong and competed hard in practice, showing us he wants to play," McLellan said. "There's a good chance he'll be in the lineup [Sunday] night." McLellan didn't say who would be scratched if Pakarinen plays. Defenseman Griffin Reinhart, who hasn't played since Sunday because of an undisclosed injury, didn't practice Saturday. Goalie Cam Talbot, who finished the game Friday after Anders Nilsson allowed six goals, is likely to make his sixth start of the season.