NEW YORK, NY - The Oilers find themselves in unfamiliar territory. This is the first time in their hot start they've lost two in a row, although they managed to get a point Tuesday in Toronto with a 3-2 overtime loss.
"We had a tough one in Toronto," said Oilers Captain Connor McDavid. "Battled hard and still got a point on it. It's good. This is obviously a big one for us tonight in New York. It's an unbelievable team so it's a big test for us."
The Oilers are staring down the barrel of a difficult road trip that continues on with the game tonight against the Rangers, then the Islanders, Red Wings and Penguins. However, the Oilers have shown good things even in defeat these last two games. In their last two losses, Edmonton has managed to outshoot their opponents by a total of 83-53. The volume of shots is there, it's just a matter of bearing down.
"We can't trick ourselves with the volume of shots. We talked about that when it was going against us the other way," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "There were some distant shots that created time in the offensive zone, which is something that we want, but it didn't create scoring chances. We've got to evaluate it properly, but I thought our scoring chance total has gone up over the last couple of games, we just haven't finished. The power play performed much better in Toronto than it did against Ottawa previously but it still has to find a way to get on the score sheet and make the difference in the game. It hasn't done that in a number of nights so we're looking forward to trying to change that tonight against a very good team."
NEED FOR SPEED
The expectations for tonight's game are that it will be a fast-paced affair. Both teams recognize the speed on the other end. The Rangers, offensively, are going to be a tough task to handle. They've scored 40 goals through their first 10 games, leading the NHL.
"I see a confident team," said McLellan. "I see a team that has a tremendous amount of speed, especially off the transition. I see a team that has a lot of polish around the net right now, whether it's on the initial shot or little secondary plays off the backside, they're able to score on it. I see a team that, if they do have a breakdown, they're very confident that their goaltender in turn can make the save. All that adds up to the highest scoring team in the NHL. We'll have our team prepared for that. Preparation is one thing, going out and executing, and solving it is the secondary part. That will be the important piece to the puzzle tonight once we get going."
On the other bench, Rangers players know tonight's game will match speed with speed.
"I think they play with a lot of speed, like us," said Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist. "They have a lot of skill up front. Obviously, Connor McDavid is one of the best players in the game in just his second year. We have to be aware when he's on the ice… It's a good test for us. They've been off to a really good start. They work hard and have good speed."
For two NHL seasons, Cam Talbot waited patiently for his opportunity behind one of the best in the game. The netminder served as Lundqvist's backup in the Big Apple. When he did get an opportunity to go in, Talbot made the most of it. The League took notice, especially the Oilers. Edmonton traded for Talbot at the 2015 NHL Draft. Sometimes players have hard feelings after being traded, but Talbot knows this time around it was a great thing for him.
"They gave me a chance to go somewhere and compete for a number-one job and progress my career a little bit," said Talbot. "I loved my time in New York, but it was time to move on for both of us. Obviously, to come back, for me it's just another game. I want this win as much as I want to win every night. I know a few more guys across the hall, but that's about it."
Talbot has blossomed into a number one for the orange and blue and is off to a great start to his season. He leads the NHL in wins with seven, and has a .932 save percentage.
"We had a really good time together, a lot of good memories and we worked really hard together," said Lundqvist. "I'm really happy for him. He's established himself in a role in Edmonton now and he's off to a good start."
Talbot makes his return to Madison Square Garden as a starter for another team. It will be the first time he's played against the Rangers, having sat out their two meetings last season. He comes in brimming with confidence and eager to continue his fast start.
"I'm playing some of the best hockey of my career right now so I feel pretty confident," said Talbot. "It's going to be a pretty good test for us. Two good teams battling for two big points. It's going to be a battle out there. I've got to be ready to bring my A-game and give us a chance to win."
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (7-2-1) vs. RANGERS (7-3-0)
TV: 5:00 p.m. MT; Televised on Sportsnet 360
This is the first of two meetings this season between the Rangers and Oilers. The next time these teams will meet is on November 13th in Edmonton.
The last time the Oilers and Rangers met was on December 15th in New York, where the Rangers won by a score of 4-2. Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall scored for Edmonton in the loss.
Oilers team scope:
This will mark goaltender Cam Talbot's first game against his former team, the New York Rangers. Talbot was signed as a free agent by the Rangers, and played from 2013-2015, appearing in 57 games, registering 33 wins.
Talbot currently leads NHL goaltenders with seven wins, 290 saves, two shutouts and 588:32 minutes played.
This will be Connor McDavid's first career NHL game against the NY Rangers. To date, McDavid has registered points against every team that he has faced in NHL competition but one. Only the Carolina Hurricanes have been able to keep McDavid off the scoresheet to date. McDavid has also yet to play against Boston, Chicago, Florida, Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has five points (2G, 3A) in seven games against the NY Rangers. Nugent-Hopkins has also registered four points, all assists, in his last five games with the Oilers.
Rangers team scope:
The Rangers will play three of their next four games at home. In addition, six of the Blueshirts' next seven contests (including tonight's game) are against teams in the Western Conference. The Rangers have won six of their last eight games (6-2-0), including five of their last six (5-1-0), and have posted a 7-3-0 record this season.
The Blueshirts lead the NHL in goal differential this season (plus-18 - 40 goals for, 22 goals against). The Rangers' plus-18 goal differential through 10 games this season is the best over the first 10 games of any season in franchise history. The Rangers have posted a plus-10 goal differential over the last two games (11-1).
Henrik Lundqvist has a 3-2-2 record with a 2.49 goals-against average and .910 save percentage against the Oilers. In four career appearances against the Oilers at home, Lundqvist has posted a 2-1-1 record, along with a 2.46 GAA and a .912 SV%.
Rick Nash has played 40 games against Edmonton with 16 goals and 33 points. Nash enters the contest with a three-game point streak against the Oilers (two goals, four assists) and he has tallied eight points (four goals, four assists) in his last five contests against Edmonton
Mats Zuccarello has nine points in six career games versus Edmonton. Zuccarello enters the contest with a three-game assist/point streak against the Oilers (two goals, three assists), and he has recorded three multi-point games in his six career contests against Edmonton.