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BLOG: Oilers set to play first divisional games

"It's basically a four-point swing in the standings every time you play divisional team. We're ready for it," said defenceman Matt Benning.

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - It's been a different start to the season for the Edmonton Oilers.

Along with beginning the year in Europe and already having played 10 games on the road, the Oilers have also yet to play a divisional opponent this season.

That won't be the case for much longer.

The Oilers next game against the Calgary Flames will kickstart a stretch of seven divisional battles over the next eight games - a challenge the players are looking forward to.  

"It's huge. It's basically a four-point swing in the standings every time you play divisional team," said Oilers defenceman Matt Benning following Thursday's practice. "We've had a little bit of rest since last game. We're ready for it."

Video: OILERS TODAY | Divisional Stretch 11.15.18

"The Battle of Alberta definitely gets you wound up and gets you going," explained Head Coach Todd McLellan. "Any time you play a rival, the fans get excited about it and the players get excited about it. Both teams are improving and pushing for a playoff spot (this season).

"I know it's very early in the year but these games become vitally important as they add up throughout the season. Our group will be excited."

For the players, it's not too early to start watching the standings closely, as the U.S Thanksgiving weekend has always served as the first unofficial checkpoint for teams and their respective playoff chances.

"The league is tighter than it's ever been," said forward Zack Kassian. "Even if it's late November, these are important games for our hockey club."

The Oilers will face off against the Calgary Flames, Vegas Golden Knights (twice), San Jose Sharks, Anaheim Ducks and LA Kings (twice) in the next seven of eight games. The Dallas Stars match is the only non-divisional game during that stretch.  

Edmonton is currently fourth in the Pacific Division with a 9-8-1 record. 

Video: RAW | Todd McLellan 11.15.18

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THROWBACK THURSDAY: November 15, 2002

After being acquired exactly two years prior, Anson Carter had two goals while Tommy Salo turned aside 29 shots for his first shutout of the season as the Oilers routed the Blues 5-0.

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

During the Oilers 40th Anniversary Season, EdmontonOilers.com is looking back at the history of the franchise weekly with Throwback Thursdays.

EDMONTON, AB - Oilers 5, Blues 0 | Box Score

After missing the playoffs for the first time in six seasons in 2001-02, the Oilers quest to make it back to the big dance was off to a rocky start. Beginning the season with a 5-7-3-1 record, Edmonton had a stiff test against the 10-3-1-0 St. Louis Blues.

Third-year Head Coach Craig MacTavish was coming off 39 and 38-win seasons in his first two seasons and had a well-balanced group to deploy against the Blues.

And they capitalized.

Led by Anson Carter's two-goal performance, the Oilers left St. Louis singing the Blues en route to a 5-0 win - their largest margin of victory recorded during the season.  

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BLOG: Caggiula earning his ice

"A goal of mine this season was to play more minutes, play more special teams and increase my input on the ice and just do an overall better job of playing more consistently," said Caggiula.

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

Drake Caggiula has often referenced game one of the regular season as the spark he needed.

Since being a healthy scratch against the New Jersey Devils, the Oilers forward has elevated his game, scoring five goals in his first 12 games - the best start of his NHL career.

"From day one of training camp, I've been trying to find ways to build trust with the coaching staff," said Caggiula following the team's practice on Saturday. "A goal of mine this season was to play more minutes, play more special teams and increase my input on the ice and just do an overall better job of playing more consistently. I think my game has been speaking volumes to that.

"I think I have been playing pretty well for the most part this season. There are things you want to improve every game, no matter what but I'm pretty happy with where my game is at right now. I just have to make sure I stay on top of it."

Video: RAW | Drake Caggiula 11.10.18

Caggiula started the latest road trip flanking Connor McDavid and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, playing productive hockey on the team's top line. When Ty Rattie returned from injury, Caggiula moved up-and-down the team's top nine but was counted on in the dying minutes against Florida.

"As for last game in playing those minutes, it speaks loudly that I gained some trust from the coaching staff and I was able to step into those roles and do a good job in those opportunities."

"Drake had a pretty good road trip," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "He had a spark in a lot of the games, he was feisty and kept plays alive.

"He was one of the few players winning those loose puck battles."

Video: OILERS TODAY | Recalibrating 11.10.18

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BLOG: Challenge accepted

"We got challenged by the coaching staff early on. We all take pride (in our play), so we wanted to respond and get up and running as fast as possible," said forward Zack Kassian.

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

WAHINGTON, DC - There is no question about it. Zack Kassian, Kyle Brodziak and Jujhar Khaira have been playing their best hockey of the young season recently.  

After an effective game against the Nashville Predators on Oct. 27, the team's so-called fourth line was finally rewarded offensively on the following night against the Blackhawks. Zack Kassian buried the game's tying goal 18:26 into the opening frame - his first goal of the season.

Video: RAW | Zack Kassian 11.04.18

Over the last four games, Jujhar Khaira has compiled four assists, including the primary marker on Kassian's aforementioned first of the season. Meanwhile, Kyle Brodziak chipped in with his first two goals of the year - including his first in an Oiler uniform since March 27, 2009 - on Saturday night versus Detroit.

"We're just playing direct," said Kassian following Sunday's skate in Washington. "We're playing simple hockey. Once we get in the offensive zone, we know what we're good at.

We have to continue to have success for our team to have success."

When it comes the line's turnaround, Kassian attributes their recent play to a challenge set forth by the team's coaching staff.

"We got challenged by the coaching staff early on. We all take pride (in our play), so we wanted to respond and get up and running as fast as possible."

The trio looks to build on their strong play on Monday night when the Oilers visit the Washington Capitals. 

 Video: OILERS TODAY | Balanced Approach 11.04.18

 

 

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BLOG: Players finding a balance

"The guys are excited to come to the rink. We're having fun but we're working hard as well. It's a good combination of both right now," said Oilers forward Ty Rattie.

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

WASHINGTON, DC - With the Oilers victory in Detroit, the team improved their winning streak on the road to five games.

After arriving in Washington late into Saturday night, the team held a light and fun practice at the MedStar Capitals Iceplex on Sunday morning.

"The guys are excited to come to the rink," said Oilers forward Ty Rattie following Sunday's practice. "We're having fun but we're working hard as well. It's a good combination of both right now.

"It's a good feeling coming to the rink when you're putting in the work and getting the results you want to see. We've been doing a good job so far, but it's a long year. We need to keep progressing and keep getting better every day."

Video: OILERS TODAY | Balanced Approach 11.04.18

Since starting the season 0-2-0, the Oilers have put together an 8-2-1 record in their past 11 games, propelling the team to third place in the Pacific Division.

"We all have the right mindset going forward," said forward Zack Kassian. "We know it's early in the year, so we're not going to get complacent. We know it's a long season and we're happy with the way we've been playing.

We just have to continue that."

The Oilers square off against the defending Stanley Cup champions Washington Capitals on Monday night.

 

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THROWBACK THURSDAY: November 1, 2005

Ales Hemsky scored twice while 11 different Oilers recorded at least a point as the Oilers defeated the Blue Jackets for the team's third-consecutive win.

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

During the Oilers 40th Anniversary Season, EdmontonOilers.com is looking back at the history of the franchise weekly with Throwback Thursdays.

EDMONTON, AB - Oilers 5, Blue Jackets 1 | Box Score

The National Hockey League was coming off a full-season lockout when teams returned to the ice for the 2005-06 season. After a three-game win streak to begin the year, Edmonton dropped their next seven games (0-6-1). However, the Oilers were able to find their scoring touch on the back-end of a three-game road trip, scoring 10 goals against Dallas and Nashville and winning both matches.

With a chance to reach the .500 mark for the first time since Oct. 20, the Oilers returned home to face-off against the Columbus Blue Jackets for the first of four meetings of the season.

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BLOG: Benning provides injury update

"It was good to get out on the ice yesterday by myself and then today back with the team. I feel back to normal," said Benning.

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - The Edmonton Oilers opened their home schedule this past week against the Boston Bruins. While the Oilers skated away with a 3-2 overtime victory, it didn't come without a cost.

After playing 2:27 of the hockey game, Matt Benning left the game with an upper-body injury after making a hit in the first period.

"I kind of got my bell rung when I hit (David) Backes in the Boston game," said the Oilers defenceman. "It was a few days of minor symptoms and now I feel back to normal.

"It was good to get out on the ice yesterday by myself and then today back with the team."

Video: INJURY UPDATE | Matt Benning 10.24.18

In four games, Benning has four shots and a minus-4 rating this season. The 6-foot-1, 203-pound defenceman logged a season-high 21:17 in the team's opening game against the New Jersey Devils.

Benning was placed on Injured Reserve on Friday.

"When you're off the ice for four or five days, you kind of lose your wind a little bit. For me, it's going to take a few days to get my wind back and those puck touches back."

The 2012 sixth-round pick says he feels ready to contribute as early as Saturday versus Nashville. He cannot be activated from the IR until Friday and will miss Thursday's tilt against the Washington Capitals as a result.

"He won't play Thursday for sure and I don't know where he'll be for the weekend," said Head Coach Todd McLellan following Wednesday's practice. "He was allowed to skate in a non-contact situation. He had a smile on his face, which is a good sign. He looked energized.

"All of those are positive steps for him."

Video: OILERS TODAY | Practice Notes 10.24.18

 

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BLOG: Nurse bringing the offence

"His decision making in the last two or three games has been much better and as a result, he's been much more involved in the offence," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan.

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - Darnell Nurse capped off an incredible come-from-behind victory with the overtime winner against Winnipeg on Tuesday.

Coming into Oilers Training Camp, the 6-foot-4 defenceman said he wanted to become more of an offensive presence on the back end. So far in four games, the rearguard has three points (1G, 2A) and a team-leading 14 shots on goal.

"[The offence] is starting to come," said Nurse following Wednesday's practice. "I know there's still more to it, so I'm just continuing to work on it and continuing to grow. In this game, not everything clicks all at once, so it's just taking steps and getting better every day."

In 82 games last season, Nurse averaged 2.4 shots per game while contributing with six goals and 20 assists - both career highs. While it may be early, the Hamilton, ON, product has upped his shots per game to 3.5 this season.

"It's his willingness to shoot a little more than he did in the past," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "He's able to get square to the net, get a shot off a little quicker, get it to the goaltender's pads so there's a scrum or secondary scoring opportunities.

Video: RAW | Darnell Nurse 10.17.18

"He's also confident in his legs. His legs get him in situations where he can jump up in the play. His decision making in the last two or three games has been much better and as a result, he's been much more involved in the offence."

Leon Draisaitl attributes Nurse's work ethic and attention to detail as catalysts in the defenceman's offensive growth.

"For him, it's more natural that he's defensive-minded and his defence has always been outstanding," said Draisaitl. "I think he's adding that (offensive) element to his game and it makes him a very productive player."

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THROWBACK THURSDAY: October 11, 1987

Glenn Anderson recorded the 17th hat trick of his career, while Gretzky, Messier and Fuhr also had big nights, leading the Oilers to a convincing 9-2 victory over the Kings.

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

During the Oilers 40th Anniversary Season, EdmontonOilers.com is looking back at the history of the franchise weekly with Throwback Thursdays.

EDMONTON, AB - Oilers 9, Kings 2 | Box Score

Coming off a 4-1 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in Northlands Coliseum - their first season opening loss in six seasons - the defending Stanley Cup champions traveled to Los Angeles to take on the Kings in the Great Western Forum.

Having met just six months prior in the Smythe Division Semi-Finals during the 1987 NHL Playoffs - a series which saw the Oilers score 32 goals en route to a 4-1 series win - the two teams continued to exchange pleasantries, combining for 58 penalty minutes on the night.

But it was the usual suspects making their marks elsewhere on the scoresheet, as Wayne Gretzky, Glenn Anderson and Mark Messier combined for 13 points in a 9-2 blowout victory over the Kings. The trio combined to shoot 60 percent on the evening, scoring six goals on just 10 shots between them. The seven-goal difference was the highest margin of victory for the Oilers in the '87-88 season.

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BLOG: Condors add Bear, Starrett to roster; Wells reassigned

Ethan Bear and Shane Starrett have been added to the Condors' (AHL) active roster, Dylan Wells reassigned to Wichita Thunder (ECHL) and Jeremy Beaudry released from PTO.

by Tony Brar / EdmontonOilers.com

EDMONTON, AB - The Bakersfield Condors have added Ethan Bear and Shane Starrett to the active roster on Tuesday. 

Tweet from @Condors: TRANSACTIONS:Ethan Bear and Shane Starrett have been added to the active roster.Dylan Wells has been reassigned to the Wichita Thunder.Jeremy Beaudry has been released from his PTO.

Bear rounded out his 2017-18 campaign with an 18-game stint with the big club, scoring one goal and adding three assists. The 2015 fifth-round pick appeared in four games during the 2018 NHL pre-season, registering one goal, two assists and two penalty minutes. Bear has 18 points (6G, 12A) in 37 career AHL games.

Starrett signed a two-year entry-level contract with the Oilers in April 2017 and is coming off his first professional season. The 24-year-old netminder spent most of his first pro season in Wichita (ECHL) and played in 38 games for the Thunder (17-14-0, .912 SV%, 3.01 GAA). Starrett appeared in three games for the Condors during the '17-18 season, winning once and recording a .895 save percentage and 3.71 goals-against average.

The Condors have also reassigned goaltender Dylan Wells to the Wichita Thunder on Monday. Wells is in his first full professional season and appeared in one game for Bakersfield this season (0-1-0, .839 SV%, 5.01 GAA). The 2016 fifth-round pick spent four seasons with the OHL's Peterborough Petes before turning pro.

Bakersfield has also released Jeremy Beaudry from his professional tryout contract. The defenceman played one game with the Condors, recording zero points and a minus-two rating.

 

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