EDMONTON, AB - The Oilers have talked amongst themselves and in the media about fixing their slow starts. Edmonton has given up a goal in the opening two minutes of a game in four of their last six games and in two straight losses.
"We addressed it yesterday again, it's been addressed in the past," said Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot. "Hopefully, this time we can come out at the drop of the puck and be ready. We've given up some grade-A chances and have put ourselves behind the eight ball and seem to have to battle back. We'd be in much better business if we can start the game off on the right foot and not have to battle back after the first couple of minutes."
Despite the early lapses in games, Edmonton has shown an ability, throughout much of the season, to come back from those early goals.
"We find ways to get back in games and that's a good thing," said Oilers Captain Connor McDavid. "I think what you get past the first two minutes or the first five minutes, we generally play pretty well. I think that's a good sign. If we can cut out those first five minutes and play the full 20 in the opening period we'll set ourselves up for the rest of the game."'
FAST AND FURIOUS
The Oilers are a fast team, and so are the Rangers. It makes for a challenge against a team that has won six of their last seven and eight of their last 10.
"I think you just realize how fast they are," said McDavid. "They play that long-pass kind of game, blowing the zone and looking for that homerun pass. They're one of the best offensive teams in the game, if not the best one. I think we definitely have to watch out for that."
"We have to be ready to play," added forward Anton Lander. "We know the Rangers play a really fast game. They have really fast players and they try to get behind us. If we can focus to be ready when they're coming we might catch a puck and get back into it. We have to be ready to play."
ZACK ATTACK IS BACK
The Oilers get an energy boost to their lineup with Zack Kassian expected to make his return from energy. Kassian feels like he will be well rested and ready to go with no limitations.
"I'm completely healthy," said Kassian. "I only missed a week or so, so if anything I should be more rested then the guys in here and I should bring a lot of energy."
Head Coach Todd McLellan says Kassian provides a veteran, physical presence.
"He can skate. He gets up and down the ice quickly, he's a little unpredictable when he's coming at you," said McLellan. "He can be a wrecking ball, a little like Pitlick, and he has an unpredictable reputation as well. In that sense, I think he can get in and create turnovers and forecheck. He's become a better penalty killer so we missed him there. We are down to five or six penalty killers where we normally have seven. And he provides us with energy, a little get-up-and-go on the bench and we missed that a little as well."
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (9-5-1) vs. RANGERS (11-4-0)
TV: 7:30 p.m. MT; Televised on Sportsnet ONE
Tonight marks the second and final meeting of the season between the Rangers and Oilers. The last time these teams met in Edmonton was on December 11, 2015, where the Oilers won by a score of 7-5 on Glen Sather's banner retirement night.
The last time the Oilers and Rangers met was on November 3rd in New York, where the Rangers won by a score of 5-3. Cam Talbot made 26 saves on 30 shots, facing his former team for the first time.
The Oilers received production from their blueline the last time these teams faced off, as Adam Larsson scored his first goal as an Oiler. He has faced the Rangers second most in the NHL (PIT - 20 games), appearing in 19 games against the blue shirts, posting five points (2G, 3A) and 10 penalty minutes.
Oilers team scope:
This will mark goaltender Cam Talbot's first game at Rogers Place 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 the NHL goaltenders in games played (14) and saves (400) and ranks second with two shutouts and eight wins.
The last time these teams faced each other was Connor McDavid's first career NHL game against the NY Rangers. McDavid posted an assist in the game, adding the Rangers to a list of teams that he has posted a point against. 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 and Tampa Bay.
Rangers team scope:
The Rangers are coming off a 4-1 win on Saturday night in Calgary against the Flames. The Rangers have won six of their last seven games with the lone loss coming by a 5-3 score against the Vancouver Canucks.
Rick Nash has 17 goals and 34 points in 41 career games against the Oilers to lead all Rangers players.
Mats Zuccarello has nine points in seven games all-time versus Edmonton.
New York's two leading scorers are J.T. Miller (five goals, 14 points) and Kevin Hayes (six goals, 12 points).
The Rangers are first in the entire NHL with 62 goals scored.