The Oilers will take on the Kings tonight in a rematch of their 2-1 shootout loss in Los Angeles on October 27. In that game, Oilers goaltender Richard Bachman faced 48 shots. Edmonton was under offensive fire for nearly the entire night and their bench boss says they'll need to play a different style tonight if they expect to escape LA with a win.
"We were under siege the whole game," said Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins. "We got some great, great goaltending from Mr. Bachman. I thought we were battling as hard as we could. Everybody was into the game. I didn't think we were shying away. I just felt like Los Angeles was on their game and they just kept coming and coming and coming. The thing that I thought we probably didn't do well is we tried to get into their game, of this big, physical game. We don't want to do that against these guys. We want to finish our checks when they're there but we need to play with the puck. We don't need to be running around with our heads cut off, trying to show these guys that we can be physical too. It's not how we're built right now."
"Last game, it was a tough back-to-back, a great performance by 'Bachs'," said Oilers Captain Andrew Ference. "I think the effort was there, but the ice was definitely tilted one way. They're a very aggressive team. They've got good size, they go to the net and obviously when you have guys that can go to the net like that, you want to put the puck there. That's a pretty standard way of winning some games. We have to be, obviously, on our toes tonight as defencemen and clearing out the front of the net and taking care of our goalie."
The Oilers could draw some successes from their last game in LA, but will focus on adding all the positives into one full 60-minute performance.
"I think it's full consistency of 60 minutes tonight and I think when we get set in our ways of sticking to our game plan, we're pretty successful," said forward Ryan Smyth.
PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS
When facing one of the top teams in the league, the Oilers know their best option is to play to their own strengths.
"You just have to use your own assets the best you can," said Ference. "Teams that utilize what they have and know what they have and use it well, can have some good success. We have some very skilled guys and some guys that can skate extremely well. If you have heavy guys, you want to put them to the net. If you have skilled guys, you want the puck on their tape and you want them to have the ability to use their speed. The biggest thing for us right now is the more puck possession we have, the quicker we can break out of our own end and keep some of those extended shifts in our end to a minimum, the better it is. That means the puck is on our tape and we're giving some of our greatest assets on our team the ability to use what they've got."
The Oilers will try to play 'keep away' with the puck as much as possible while putting pressure on the Kings' zone.
"I think the biggest challenge for us is going to play in their end," said centre Sam Gagner. "think if we can hang on to the puck and make good decisions with it and play with some urgency in their end, it obviously negates their ability to create offence. That's got to be our goal."
The Oilers took a day off from skating yesterday and instead spent the day working out and re-energizing themselves for tonight's game. The extra time to relax and refresh showed in a positive light in the morning skate today. The players looked loose and vocal in preparation for their battle with the Kings.
"It's rare that you ever get a comment on it but even coming off the skate, everybody did comment that they felt good," said Ference. "Guys were jumping and nice an loud. You like to see just that excitement to be on the ice. I think that sometimes, that's the magic of a day off. Just refreshing the mind and I think everybody just had a chance to, whether it was take care of little bruises or just get a day to rest your head and get prepared for a game. It's a good thing to have. I think the key is to carry that into tonight and have fun and be confident and go after a team."
It doesn't matter how fresh a team is, they need to stay focused on the game or run the risk of coming out flat.
"It's important for us to get rest and make sure that we're ready to go once the game starts and I think the one thing, when you have days off, is you can't get complacent," said Gagner. "You have to make sure that mentally, you're ready to go. It felt like guys were sharp this morning and we've just got to make sure that when the puck drops tonight, we're good to go."
Ales Hemsky will return to the lineup tonight. He sat out the last game in Anaheim due to a rib injury. This means that Jesse Joensuu will be the forward scratched, along with Anton Lander.
"Hemsky is in," said Eakins. "Joensuu will draw out. We'll put Hemsky with Smyth and (Boyd) Gordon and then the top two lines will stay the same and the fourth line will look like, (Luke) Gazdic, (Mark) Arcobello and (Ryan) Jones."
Defensively, the Oilers need to plug the hole made by the suspension of Corey Potter. Therefore, Anton Belov slides back into the lineup, but the pairings are a mystery until game time.
"We'll mix them up a little bit, possibly," said Eakins. "We'll probably wait until we see exactly what the Los Angeles lines look like after warmups. We're looking for Belov to come in and give us some size, a safe game and we need him to play just a little more physical in our own zone."
Ilya Bryzgalov will again get the starting nod in goal for Edmonton. When asked if Bryzgalov would be start until he falters or needs a rest, Eakins said the team has a plan in place for a goalie rotation between him and Devan Dubnyk.
"We've got a plan for the next few games but, just like I always say, you get a plan down for when you're going to practice and that changes. You get a plan for your goalies, and that usually changes too. He's playing tonight and we'll see where the plan after that goes."
Big story: Los Angeles begins a four-game homestand -- the Kings are 10-4-2 at home this season -- while Edmonton has the worst road record in the Western Conference at 6-11-2.
Oilers: The Oilers look for their first win on a difficult four-game road trip in Los Angeles, with one more game to follow at the Colorado Avalanche. They lost the first two games of the trip to the Vancouver Canucks and Anaheim Ducks, the latter a 3-2 loss on Sunday.
"You are always disappointed when you lose, but I can't find a whole lot wrong with our game there," coach Dallas Eakins said after the loss. "I find that when we're up against the really good teams, the ones we see are at the top of the League, we seem real focused and ready."
The Oilers were outshot 34-27, but allowed the game-winning goal with under four minutes left in the third period.
"We played well for the most part, but you have to find a way to win," forward Sam Gagner, who had one of the goals for the Oilers, said after the game. "You've got to find a way to at least get to overtime."
Kings: The red-hot Kings' six-game winning streak came to an end Sunday with a 3-1 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks. Only a late third-period goal prevented the Kings from being shut out for the second time this season.
"Definitely not the start that we wanted. It's hard when you play catch-up, especially three goals. It's quite a bit to overcome against that kind of team. It's no secret that we lost the game in the first period," forward Anze Kopitar said after the loss.
Chicago scored three first-period goals. Los Angeles isn't used to playing from behind, and wasn't able to respond.
"Well, you can't chase the lead against a team that's … what are they, 30 or 40 goals ahead of everybody else in the League? Pretty tough to chase the lead," coach Darryl Sutter said.
Who's hot:Jordan Eberle has two goals and four points in three games for the Oilers. Taylor Hall has five goals and three assists in six games. … Jeff Carter has three goals and six points in six games for the Kings and Slava Voynov has three assists in four games.