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PRE-GAME REPORT: Oilers vs. Rangers

by Meg Tilley / Edmonton Oilers

 
INSIDE THE OILERS

 

Nikitin recalled from Bakersfield plus news, notes and more from Oilers practice on Thursday plus some tidbits from the events this week surrounding Glen Sather's retirement.

>> READ MORE IN THE INSIDE THE OILERS BLOG

 

PRE-GAME REPORT

 

EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers are looking to grab their fifth straight win tonight as they faceoff against the New York Rangers in their last home game before hitting the road for four games.

“You have to put some streaks together & beat teams that are hot. That’s the case tonight,” said Taylor Hall.

With each team having won a game in their opponent’s arena last season the Oilers are focused on changing the pace and grabbing another win at home, attempting to put together its first five-game winning streak since March 26, 2013.

“You always want to finish your homestands on the best note possible,” said Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse.

“We’ve done a lot of good things so far and we just have to continue to build off those and improve in the areas that we need to improve in at the same time. It’s going to be a great challenge for us tonight but I’m just looking forward to going out there and playing and doing what we can to help each other out.”

The Rangers offence has stalled a bit, having been held to a single goal in three of their four games this month. This gives the Oilers, who have won four straight and average 3.25 goals per game in that stretch, an opportunity to continue their success.

“My concern going into the game tonight is four successful games,” said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. “We have been in training dealing with entering a game where we’re not on the run and we have to get a win to put a stop to a different type of streak.

“We’re now dealing with some success over the past week, these are those moments where I talked about at the beginning of the year I’m going to stand back and watch our group and see how we react and apply ourselves. We want to be confident, we want to be sure of ourselves but that shouldn’t superceed the work and everything else that has to go into it.”

NILSSON VS LUNDQVIST

Oilers goaltender Anders Nilsson will start the game between the pipes, while Henrik Lundqvist takes the start for the Rangers.

Lundqvist entered games Thursday leading the NHL in save percentage (.937) and second in goals-against average (1.99). He’s given up four goals in his past three starts and has a 1-1-1 record.

“He’s one of the best, if not the best goalie in the world,” said Leon Draisaitl. “We’re going to have to get lots of traffic in front of him, take his eyes away and try and be greasy around the net.”

Though the Oilers hold an 8-5-1 home record, Anders Nilsson said that it’s going to be a tough game regardless of their home-ice advantage.

“The Rangers have a very good team so it’s going to be a big test for us so we can’t be satisfied with what we have done,” said Nilsson.

“We need to stay on this track and look forward. We need to get the win and we need to continue to win…so we just need to keep going and improve.”

SATHER BANNER RAISING

Glen Sather, who served as president, general manager and coach of the Oilers from 1979-2000, lead Edmonton to five Stanley Cup titles, will be honoured during a banner-raising ceremony prior to the game.

“It’s really special,” said Draisaitl. “It’s an honour to even be in the same building with guys like him and all the other guys too. It’s very special and I think it’s going to be a very fun night.”

Sather was with the Oilers franchise before joining the Rangers as president and general manager; he stepped down as general manager this summer, replaced by Jeff Gorton.

OILERS INJURIES

Oilers forwards Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Benoit Pouliot each had a goal and an assist in a 3-1 win at Madison Square Garden on November 9, 2014.

Pouliot, who has missed the win streak due to a lower-body injury, suffered in the November 30 game in Toronto, practiced Thursday.

“The fact that we aren’t really a healthy team right now is huge,” said Hall. “As we start getting guys back, it’s going to be important that we pick up points whenever we can.”

Having returned November 6 from a shoulder injury he sustained in a pre-season game, Oilers forward Jordan Eberle has potted goals in three straight games.

“He looks confident now,” said McLellan. “He looks, as I remember him at the world championships and in all the years playing against him, he looks confident, he looks slippery, he looks dangerous.

“He’s now looking back at me on the bench as, ‘Hey put me out there.’ Whereas before, it didn’t happen as much and that shows confidence.”

-- Meg Tilley, edmontonoilers.com

 

NHL.COM PREVIEW

 

RANGERS (18-8-3) at OILERS (12-15-2)

TV: MSG, SNW

Season series:
The New York Rangers and Edmonton Oilers each won a game in their opponent's arena last season. Oilers forwards Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Benoit Pouliot each had a goal and an assist in a 3-1 win at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 9, 2014. Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist made 16 saves in a 2-0 win at Rexall Place on Dec. 14, 2014. Defenseman Dan Girardi had the decisive goal.

Rangers team scope:
Lundqvist will start in goal, coach Alain Vigneault confirmed Thursday following practice. He entered games Thursday leading the NHL in save percentage (.937) and second in goals-against average (1.99). He's given up four goals in his past three starts but has a 1-1-1 record to show for it. Girardi, who was dinged up blocking a shot Wednesday in a 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Canucks, watched practice Thursday but said he is ready to play, and Vigneault said he will be in the lineup. New York currently is not carrying a seventh defenseman with Kevin Klein (oblique) out. The Rangers have been held to a single goal in three of four games in December but still ranked seventh in the League entering Thursday at 2.76 goals per game.

Oilers team scope:
Edmonton is attempting to put together its first five-game winning streak since March 26-April 3, 2013. Pouliot, who has missed the entire winning streak because of a lower-body injury, practiced Thursday, as did defenseman Andrew Ference (undisclosed), who has missed six straight games. Forward Teddy Purcell wasn't at practice; his absence was termed a maintenance day. Defenseman Nikita Nikitin was recalled from Bakersfield of the American Hockey League after defenseman Mark Fayne cleared waivers and was assigned to the AHL. Nikitin, 29, has one goal and nine points in 14 AHL games. He had four goals and 10 points in 42 games last season for the Oilers. Forward Jordan Eberle has a goal in three straight games. "I know the kind of player I can be … it's nice it's finally starting to come," he told the Oilers website. Glen Sather, who served as president, general manager and coach led the Oilers to five Stanley Cup titles, will be honored during a banner-raising ceremony prior to the game. Sather was with the franchise from 1979-2000 before joining the Rangers as president and GM; he stepped down as GM this summer, replaced by Jeff Gorton.

-- NHL.com
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