DETROIT, MI - The Oilers make their final visit to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, as the Red Wings get set to move to their new home next season. There have been many meetings in this city between the two teams, but for one Oilers defenceman it will be the first and potentially last.
"For me, it's going game by game," said Matt Benning, who will play just his fourth NHL game tonight. "I hadn't been to any of these arenas yet other than TD Garden in Boston. It's a new experience for me, and I definitely appreciate all these old rinks. MSG was a great arena to be in and the one tonight will also be great."
The Oilers are 20-34-5, with three ties, at the Joe. Edmonton will try to win in Detroit for the first time since December 3, 2009.
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With Cam Talbot emerging as a very good starter in the NHL, the Oilers have only went to their backup once this season. Jonas Gustavsson has played just one game in relief for Talbot, and played just 10 minutes before leaving due to injury.
Talbot has shouldered a heavy workload and will get his first full-game rest as Gustavsson gets the nod against his former team.
"I'm just going to try and do whatever I've been doing in the past," said Gustavsson. "There's really nothing new. You just prepare yourself for the game and go out and play and try to help the team get some points."
Gustavsson played in Detroit from 2012-2015, splitting time between the NHL and AHL.
Gustavsson is 71-64-22 in 152 starts in his NHL career. He has a 2.87 goals-against average and .902 save percentage.
The Oilers have enjoyed success on the penalty kill this season. They rank second in the League at 91.7%. They have not allowed a power-play goal against on the road this season.
"I think everything has come together so far," said Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. "Cam's obviously been playing super well. He gives us a chance every time we get on the kill. He makes some big saves in big moments. For the most part, our kill has just been solid. We don't give up too much and when we do, Cam is right there or the d-men are right there to make a good block or have a good stick or what not. It's definitely a lot different this year. We've just got to keep that going."
Edmonton ranked 21st in the NHL last season on the kill, at just 79.7%.
As Nugent-Hopkins indicated, the Oilers blueline has been there for some big blocked shots on the kill. Overall, Kris Russell is tied for fourth in the NHL in that category with 31. But their shot-blocking machine was unavailable last night in Brooklyn for the team's 4-3 shootout win over the Islanders. The extent of the injury is unknown. Edmonton recalled Dillon Simpson from the Bakersfield Condors of the American Hockey League yesterday.
Even without Russell in the lineup blocking shots, Edmonton kept the Islanders off the board on the power play all three times.
Head Coach Todd McLellan has yet to speak to the media, but we know that forward Taylor Beck has been recalled from the Condors. He is expected to suit up in the place of either Jesse Puljujarvi or Zack Kassian. Both wingers did not return to last night's game after leaving with injuries.
McLellan indicated last night that Kassian was unlikely to play and Puljujarvi is dealing with soreness from a collision. Anton Slepyshev could draw into the lineup as well as Beck if one, or both, are unavailable.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (8-3-1) at RED WINGS (6-5-1)
TV: 3:00 p.m. MST; Televised on Sportsnet West
Head to Head:
This is the first of two meetings this season between the Oilers and Red Wings.
Oilers team scope:
After going winless in three straight, the Oilers got back in the winning column on Saturday with a shootout win over the New York Islanders. Despite the recent slide, the Oilers remain five points up on Anaheim and San Jose for top spot in the Pacific Division with 17 points (8-3-1).
With 13 points in 12 games, Connor McDavid is tied for sixth in the NHL in points. Second on the Oilers is Milan Lucic and Jordan Eberle, who each have eight points.
Jesse Puljujarvi left Saturday's game in the first period but after the game, Oilers head coach Todd McLellan said that his injury was not too serious, leaving him as a question mark for today's game against the Wings. Zack Kassian was also injured in the opening period Saturday and he was ruled out for today.
Kris Russell missed Saturday's game due to an injury. Dillon Simpson was recalled from Bakersfield.
Red Wings team scope:
After starting the season 6-2-0, the Red Wings have seen their fortunes turned the other way as of late, going winless in their last four games (0-3-1).
Defenceman Mike Green is off to a great start for Detroit, with nine points in 12 games to tie for the Red Wings team lead. Green is tied for seventh in the NHL for points among defencemen.
Gustav Nyquist also has nine points (3 goals, 6 assists) to match Green's output.
With eight points in seven games, Thomas Vanek is off to a very good start for the Red Wings. Last season, Vanek had 41 points in 74 games in a disappointing season. He's well on his way to bouncing back.