EDMONTON, AB - The Edmonton Oilers, now 7-2-2 in their last 11 games, will host the Los Angeles Kings tonight at Rexall Place. The Kings, currently 6th in the Western Conference, bring with them their own record of 6-4-0 in their last 10 games.
The Kings are a bigger team that plays a heavy-style game and that’s something that not all of the players on the Oilers roster are accustomed to. Matt Hendricks is one of those forwards on the Oilers who likes a heavier game and respects the way the Kings play.
“I think so,” Hendricks said. “They’re definitely competitive when it comes to their physical nature and big bodies. I think they have the makeup of a successful team. That’s the kind of team that wins games in the playoffs.”
Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said this morning that he’s not expecting his team to go out and lay the lumber, but they’ve got to be prepared to support their teammates and engage themselves in battles for the puck.
“I don’t expect us to go out and knock these guys around because it’s not going to probably bode well for your success rate that way,” Eakins said. “But I certainly am going to be preaching today and tonight about wanting to get into the battle for the puck and wanting to get into the fight for the puck and we’ve got to do it by numbers. We can’t leave Jordan Eberle in the corner fighting off one of their defencemen and their low centreman. Somebody’s got to get over their and want to help him and want to support him and we’ve got to be quick with that support. If we’re not, they’re going to have the puck a whole bunch.
“For me, it’s going to be about very quick support, coming to the puck, helping out your teammate but we can’t be late to the party tonight, when late to the party could be a beat. We’ve got to be diligent that, when we do have it, we’re getting over close to the guy quickly for support and the other part is when we don’t have it, we at least have to get back on the right side of the puck immediately.”
WE MEET AGAIN
There’s no hard feelings between the Kings and Oilers goaltender Ben Scrivens. The Kings traded Scrivens to the Oilers in January in exchange for a third round pick. Edmonton is more than happy with the pick up, signing Scrivens to a two-year contract while the goalie continues to lead the NHL in save percentage (.935). Scrivens looks back on his time in LA with fond memories, but is happy with where he is now.
“Obviously, I enjoyed my time in LA,” Scrivens said. “They gave me an opportunity to develop my game even further so I’m extremely thankful for that. Both teams tried to make a move that made them a better team so no hard feelings. I’m an Edmonton Oiler now, I’m happy to be home and I’m just going to try to play the game like I normally would.”
Scrivens gets the start in net tonight against his former team and former teammate Jonathan Quick. The two goaltenders are currently tied for second in the league for goals against average (2.02). Scrivens talked after morning skate today about how he learned from one of the game’s best by studying under Quick in Los Angeles.
“It was a great opportunity to learn from one of the best in the game. He’s an Olympian, he’s a Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup winner. Everyday you got to watch him in practice and see how he conducts himself before the games and during games. It was a great learning experience for me. Getting to work with Billy (Ranford), another guy who’s won Stanley Cups, Conn Smythes and he knows how to win, as your coach was another outstanding opportunity for me to learn. Like I said, it was a great experience and at the time, I was still… I think I still am the guy who’s trying to establish myself in the league and obviously, it’s a great opportunity here in Edmonton to try and do that.”
Scrivens says he is not putting any extra emphasis on tonight’s game and is approaching it as any other, despite playing against former teammates and friends.
“All you can do is try and stop the shots that are directed at you. You can’t control who shoots, when they shoot, the situation, how many shots they’re getting or anything like that. You can’t control it so you just try and approach it and try and make the first save and after you do that, put that behind you and try to make the next one. There’s not secret or it’s not like you’re trying harder now or anything like that. You just to approach it the same way you did every other game.”
Oilers forward Matt Hendricks has been involved in two trades in his career and commented on what it’s like to play against former teammates.
“I’m not really sure as a goaltender what you’re going through,” Hendricks said. “But as a player, it’s a little tricky at first but once you settle into the game and you kind of forget about everything, you get into playing your style of hockey which is something you’ve got to do at this level.”
PETRY GOOD TO GO
Jeff Petry carried the positive vibes of his Saturday practice into this morning. After suffering a back injury in Thursday night’s game against the New York Islanders, the Oilers defenceman has quickly recovered and says, barring any setback, he will play tonight.
“I felt good,” Petry said of his skate this morning. “It got better from yesterday so hopefully nothing changes from now until game time and I should be in.”
Petry’s biggest hurdle was that during the game, following a hit, and for the time after, he had a hard time breathing. That discomfort is gone.
“It was tough to take a deep breath right after the game or right after the hit. They didn’t want me to continue and the next morning it was still the same and throughout that next day, it loosened up quite a bit.”
The news of Petry’s recovery and with Coach Eakins saying that, ‘It looks like everybody’s going to be good to go’, means that Oscar Klefbom’s NHL debut is almost certainly delayed. The Oilers would have to designate Klefbom as a full recall instead of ‘emergency basis’ he was tagged with when recalled from Oklahoma City on Saturday morning.
Eakins says he will have to call General Manager Craig MacTavish to see what the organization wants to do with their two recalls; Klefbom and Anton Lander.
Big story: Los Angeles will look to make it seven straight wins, six since the NHL season resumed after the 2014 Sochi Olympics. The Kings endured a rough stretch prior to the Olympics, going 1-8-1, but have since rediscovered their knack for winning close games.
The Kings have used that run to solidify their hold on third place in the Pacific Division; they are nine points ahead of the Phoenix Coyotes for the final automatic Stanley Cup Playoff position.
The Oilers have won two straight but remain in 14th place in the Western Conference, five points behind the Calgary Flames.
Kings: Los Angeles has been elite defensively all season, allowing a League-low 2.05 goals per game. That has continued during the winning streak, with the Kings surrendering eight goals in six games.
It is the offense that has stepped up and made the difference lately. During the skid in late January, the Kings were shut out three times in five games. Since the Olympics, offensive leaders Dustin Brown and Mike Richards are emerging from droughts.
"It was important for us to get on top of it," Brown said. "Our team is capable of it. It's just a matter of doing the right things, and it's going to take everyone. That's what has happened so far and what needs to continue to happen."
Los Angeles opened its three-game road swing with a 3-1 win Thursday against the Winnipeg Jets. Brown and Richards scored and the Kings skated for the first time with Marian Gaborik, who was acquired prior to the NHL Trade Deadline from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Gaborik took note of the Kings’ commitment to defense and positioning.
"I think that everyone is playing their position," Gaborik said. "Five [players] up, five [players] back. We have great goaltending, and everybody is trying to help out. We have a fast team. Our transition is very good."
Oilers: Thursday, fans -- and Wayne Gretzky, who was in attendance -- found some respite from what has been a difficult season when Edmonton rallied from two goals down in the third period to defeat the New York Islanders 3-2 in overtime.
Ryan Smyth scored to pass Gretzky on the Oilers all-time power-play goals list.
"He's my hero," Smyth said of Gretzky. "He's a great ambassador for the game and great for this organization. It was so nice to have him in the building for this.”
After struggling much of this season, the Oilers have looked to play spoiler of late and are 7-2-2 in their past 11 games.
Who’s hot: Richards and Brown have combined for eight points (four goals, four assists) in the past five games. … Oilers goalie Ben Scrivens has earned his new two-year contract with three wins in his past four starts.
Injury report: Los Angeles reports no injuries. … Edmonton defenseman Anton Belov (partially torn oblique) will be out 2-3 weeks. Defenseman Jeff Petry (back) left the game Thursday against the Islanders but appears to be fine.