NEW YORK, NY - The Oilers and Islanders are in similar situations. Both teams are looking to get back on the winning track when they face off tonight at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The Oilers have dropped three games in a row to their opponents. The Islanders are 1-3-1 in their last five. Edmonton has had their chances in each of their losses, but they'll need to bear down on their opportunities against the Islanders.
"We've been doing a lot of good things. For us, it's getting pucks to the net and creating chances," said Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse. "At the same time, especially from last game, we've got to tighten up in our own zone and not give them as many opportunities. With that said, we've got to keep playing hard and it'll come."
Nurse sees a better team in the Islanders than their recent record indicates.
"They're a real strong team," said Nurse. "Their penalty kill is real good and they've got a lot of weapons that can hurt you up front. It's going to take a full team effort here. We'll have to be on our toes. We're going to have to play hard for the full 60 minutes no matter what because they've got a lot of weapons that can hurt you."
CALL THE NURSE
The Oilers have gotten some consistent play out of their 2013 seventh-overall pick this season, and in particular over the last few games. Nurse was excellent in Toronto on November 1, and continues to stand out on a game-by-game basis.
"I feel like it's been a strong start," said Nurse. "With that being said, it's only the beginning. The key to playing well is to bring it every night. I am definitely feeling good about where my game has been. There's always room for improvement and I know I can still be better. It's just continuing to build off things I've done so far like moving pucks, moving my feet and playing hard."
Nurse has two goals and two assists in 11 games this season.
THE OILERS SHUFFLE
The Oilers mixed up their forward lines yesterday at practice. Head Coach Todd McLellan elevated Patrick Maroon to Connor McDavid's line and bumped rookie Jesse Puljujarvi to play with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.
"We need some individuals to get jumpstarted, we need threesomes to get going a little more," said McLellan. "In fact, the most consistent line we've had and the one we're pleased with the most is the fourth line. They seem to get the job done night in and night out.
"There are some individuals that have to pick their play up to make the group work. We're looking for that tonight. We shuffled some things up and hopefully we'll get some good results."
Maroon has experience with McDavid, having played with him late last season.
"We played (with each other) a fair amount at the end of the year last year," said McDavid. "We found a little success so hoping for the same thing."
The changes to the forward lineup was expected, but McLellan gave some unexpected news on Saturday. Defenceman Kris Russell will sit out with an undisclosed injury.
There will be a change tonight," said McLellan. "Russell won't play due to injury. The other six will."
Eric Gryba draws in as a result.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (7-3-1) at ISLANDERS (4-6-1)
TV: 7:00 p.m. MT; Televised on Sportsnet
This is the first of two meetings this season between the Islanders and Oilers. The next time these teams will meet is on March 7th in Edmonton.
The last time the Oilers and Islanders met was on February 28th in Edmonton, where the Oilers won by a score of 3-1. Anton Lander, Leon Draisaitl and Brandon Davidson scored for the Oilers in the win.
Oilers team scope:
Forward Anton Lander played 13:31 against the Rangers, a season high. Lander has three points (1G, 2A), which equals his 2016-17 final statistics. He also a +4 plus minus rating through his first ten games, and has a team best 58.2 faceoff winning percentage.
Forward Milan Lucic and defenceman Adam Larsson lead the Oilers with 30 hits through 11 games. They are tied for 11th place in the NHL, with Leafs forward Matt Martin leading overall with 47 hits, while Islanders forward Cal Clutterbuck ranks third with 39.
As a team, the Oilers rank seventh in the NHL with 265 hits. The Oilers ranked 20th in 2015-16, with 1818 hits.
Rookie 18 year old forward Jesse Puljujarvi registered an assist and three shots on net against the New Rangers on Nov. 3. Puljujarvi now has 24 shots on net, which has in a fourth place tie with Milan Lucic on the Oilers, only trailing Eberle (34), Nugent-Hopkins (30) and McDavid (29).
After going without a shot on Oct. 28 at Vancouver, Puljujarvi has 12 shots in three games, including seven shots on net in Toronto. His ice-time has also increased over the past two games. Through his first nine games, he was average 12:26 TOI/GP, but played 15:58 on Nov. 1 at Toronto, and 14:03 on Nov. 3 at NY Rangers.
Islanders team scope:
The Islanders have had a bit of a slow start to the season and also struggled a little as of late with a 4-6-1 record overall and only one win in their last five games.
Leading the way on the scoresheet is John Tavares and Brock Nelson with nine points each in 11 games.
Josh Bailey has seven points in 11 games and is also off to a very good start. ... With only one assist through his first 11 contests, off-season acquisition Andrew Ladd is off to a slow start.
Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak have pretty much split the duties in goal, with Greiss playing in five games and Halak in seven. Greiss is 2-3-0 with a 2.87 goals-against average and .908 save percentage. Halak is 2-3-1 with a 2.94 GAA and .908 spct.