EDMONTON, AB - Like every upcoming match in the playoffs, Game 4 between the Oilers and Anaheim Ducks is the most important meeting for both clubs.
Edmonton is up 2-1 in the series, dropping Game 3 by a score of 6-3 after stealing home ice advantage with two consecutive victories in Anaheim at the Honda Center. The Oilers are hoping to withhold that advantage by taking a game at Rogers Place. To do that, the team will look to get the crowd loud as early as possible tonight as opposed to Game 3 when Rickard Rakell's breakaway marker just 25 seconds in spawned silence from the Oilers faithful.
"Our fans are great for us, they react when our play is good," said Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse. "Our mindset tonight is to come out and have a good bounce-back game even though the fans will be there supporting. The crowd always seems to bring a special atmosphere."
On the other side of the ice, the Ducks are aware of the effect their quick-strike offence gave them in Game 3 but know Oil Country is incessantly rambunctious.
"I don't think it makes it difficult, I think that you learn to appreciate the passion that's in the markets," said Ducks Head Coach Randy Carlyle. "I'm not immune from the craziness of playoff markets in playoff time."
RECOVER AND RECUPERATE
The Oilers are considered a rebound team. The squad is 16-14-4 when coming off a loss of any kind and 11-5-2 a game after losing by two goals or more this season.
"Anytime we've had a tough game, we've always been able to find a way to bounce back," said Oilers forward Drake Caggiula. "I think that's that young competitive edge in us, we just want to go out there and prove that's not who we are and I think we are going to have a much better push today."
Cam Talbot has been the backbone of the bounce-back with his .919 save percentage, 1.88 goals-against average and 5-0-0 record the next outing after allowing five or more goals against.
"I think it's just short-term memory," said Talbot. "It helps when we get a day off and kind of reset. Spend a day with the kids and just get away from it."
Talbot is 6-3 these playoffs with a .918 save percentage and 2.47 goals-against average.
"When you look at our team, we are a relatively young team but Cam is a mature goaltender," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "He's got a real good level of emotional control. He doesn't get too high or too low and I think one of the big things for him is he accepts responsibility for his performances."
POWERING UP THE POWER PLAY
It's hard to believe given they are converting at a 25 percent clip on the power play in Round 2 but there is a sense around the Oilers that they can score more timely goals on the man advantage.
McLellan believes the shortcomings stem from a combination of the team not gaining clean zone entries and the Ducks stifling aspects of their setup. The Oilers need to be "cleaner" overall, said McLellan.
"They (Anaheim) present some different challenges than San Jose did," said centre Mark Letestu. "Like any penalty kill, they have their own identity that they play to and they took it up another level last game. We weren't able to match it."
The Oilers finished fifth in the regular season on the man advantage with a power play that clicked at 22.9 percent. In the post-season, that number has dropped to 17.9 percent, although the chances are still apparent.
"We're still confident in the group we have," continued Letestu. "It was a top-five power play all year, we don't feel that there's any philosophical changes or system changes to make; we're going to break through."
Based on Tuesday's practice, the Oilers have seemed to return to the same forward lines they had previously. That likely means Patrick Maroon is back with Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, while Jordan Eberle, Milan Lucic and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins have returned as a unit.
As for the Ducks, Carlyle disclosed that Patrick Eaves is doubtful to play in Game 4 due to a lower-body injury. Kevin Bieksa will also be out of the lineup again.
Here is the Oilers projected lineup:
Maroon - McDavid - Draisaitl
Lucic - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle
Caggiula - Letestu - Kassian
Pouliot - Desharnais - Slepyshev
Klefbom - Larsson
Sekera - Russell
Nurse - Benning
-- Paul Gazzola, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (6-3) at DUCKS (5-2)
TV: 8:00 p.m. MDT; Televised on Sportsnet
Sunday night was certainly a tough loss for the team with Anaheim getting off to a fast start with a 3-0 first-period lead and despite the Oilers rallying to tie things up thy ultimately lost 6-3.
But the real important thing for the Oilers and their fans to remember is that Edmonton is still in the driver's seat in this series. The Oilers have home-ice advantage with a 2-1 series and have a chance to turn that into a commanding 3-1 edge with a win tonight.
OILERS KEYS TO SUCCESS:
TALBOT'S BOUNCE BACK: Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot has been good all season long bouncing back following games where he allows four or more goals. Oilers will need him to be sharp tonight.
BALANCED ATTACK: Edmonton is at its most effective when they have all four lines and three defence pairings rolling.
QUICK START: The Oilers would benefit from a quick start after Sunday's goal by the Ducks 25 seconds in took the Rogers Place crowd out of the game for the majority of the opening period.
Edmonton:Tyler Pitlick is out for the season with a lower-body injury.
Anaheim: Kevin Bieksa is out for Game 4 while Patrick Eaves is doubtful.
When Talbot allows five or more goals in a game, he's perfect in his next outing with a 5-0-0 record this season and a 1.88 goals-against average and .919 save percentage.
In games immediately after allowing 5+ goals in a game, the Oilers had a 5-2-1 record during the regular season. Prior to April 30, the Oilers had only allowed 5+ goals in one playoff game this year, a 7-0 loss to San Jose, which they followed up with a 4-3 overtime win.
In 2016, the Ducks lost the first two games of their series with Nashville at home before rallying to win Game 3, 4 and 5. However, they then lost Game 6 and 7 to drop the series. In 2014, the same thing happened in their series with the Kings so these Ducks are quite familiar with this situation.
"I think it's just short-term memory. Just letting it go and focusing on the next one. It helps when we get a day off and kind of reset. Spend a day with the kids and just get away from it. Then today, come in, have a good practice and get ready for tomorrow. I think that helped too." -- Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot on his ability to bounce back from big losses.
Oilers lead best-of-seven series 2-1
Apr 26:Edmonton 5 at Anaheim 3 Apr 28:Edmonton 2 at Anaheim 1 Apr 30:Anaheim 6 at Edmonton 3 May 3: Anaheim at Edmonton - 8:00 p.m. MDT May 5: Edmonton at Anaheim - 8:30 p.m. MDT May 7: Anaheim at Edmonton - TBD May 10: Edmonton at Anaheim - TBD
Edmonton won the season series this year 3-2-0
Nov 15: Edmonton 1 at Anaheim 4 Dec 3: Anaheim 2 at Edmonton 3 (OT) Jan 25:Edmonton 4 at Anaheim 0 Mar 22: Edmonton 3 at Anaheim 4 Apr 1: Anaheim 2 at Edmonton 3 (OT)
In 2006, Edmonton defeated Anaheim 4 games to 1 in the only playoff match-up ever between the two teams
May 19:Edmonton 3 at Anaheim 1 May 21:Edmonton 3 at Anaheim 1 May 23: Anaheim 4 at Edmonton 5 May 25:Anaheim 6 at Edmonton 3 May 27:Edmonton 2 at Anaheim 1