It’s no secret, the Edmonton Oilers are in trouble when it comes to the standings. The team from Northern Alberta is 4-8-1 and sits 30th in the NHL, seven points out of a playoff spot. Tonight, the Oilers open a four game road trip against the eastern conference, whom they are 1-6-1 against this season. The road isn’t ideal, but wins are an absolute must before this season slips away.
The Oilers sent Kailer Yamamoto to junior yesterday, recalling Brad Malone to fill his spot on the roster. Many thought that Chris Kelly would be signed, but as of now that has not happened. On the other hand, it’s also surprising that Jesse Puljujarvi was not recalled from AHL Bakersfield, but some seem to have concerns about his ‘urgency’ in the A right now.
Cam Talbot will start for the Oilers, while Thomas Griess gets the nod for the Islanders.
Keys To The Game:
Edmonton: The Oilers need to get off to a good start tonight and apply pressure right from the get-go. When they did that on Friday against New Jersey, the Oilers were able to take an early lead and control most of the hockey game. This group is fragile right now, and needs the lead to play their brand of hockey.
New York: Force Edmonton to take penalties in this game and get on the powerplay. The Oiler penalty kill is the worst in the NHL to my eye, while the Islander powerplay has been very good thus far this season. The trio of Anders Lee, John Tavares and Josh Bailey has had the puck on a string so far, and could dominate the Oilers if they get on the man advantage.
Players To Watch:
Edmonton: Anton Slepyshev missed Sunday’s loss against Detroit, but he looked very good on Friday night in the victory over New Jersey. Slepyshev is reportedly back in tonight, and I’ll be watching to see if he can keep his momentum going. The Oilers desperately need their second line to be a consistent threat, and they have looked at their best with Slepy playing his game on the wing.
New York: The Islanders acquired the 16th overall pick from the Oilers in the 2015 draft in exchange for Griffin Reinhart on draft night. While the deal was a total bust for the Oilers, it has been a home run for the Islanders. The player taken with that pick? Matthew Barzal, who had five assists in a win on Sunday. I’ll be watching the young and skilled center intently this evening.
As mentioned above, the Oilers sent Yamamoto back to Spokane yesterday afternoon and recalled Brad Malone from Bakersfield. According to club insider Bob Stauffer’s tweet earlier this morning, Malone isn’t expected to draw into the lineup. It also looks like Jujhar Khaira will sit for Edmonton while Slepyshev replaces Yamamoto up front.
Edmonton Oilers Lines:
Patrick Maroon – Connor McDavid – Leon Draisaitl
Milan Lucic – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins – Anton Slepyshev
Jussi Jokinen – Ryan Strome – Drake Caggiula
Iiro Pakarinen – Mark Letestu – Zack Kassian
Darnell Nurse – Adam Larsson
Oscar Klefbom – Matt Benning
Kris Russell – Eric Gryba
The Islanders will make a few changes to their lineup tonight, as they take out Dennis Seidenberg and reinsert Thomas Hickey on defense. As mentioned above, Thomas Griess gets the start for New York over Jaroslav Halak. Griess is 4-0-2 in his career against the Oilers with a .952 SV%.
New York Islanders Lines:
Anders Lee – John Tavares – Josh Bailey
Andrew Ladd – Matt Barzal – Jordan Eberle
Anthony Beauvillier – Brock Nelson – Jason Chimera
Nikolay Kulemin – Casey Cizikas – Cal Clutterbuck
Nick Leddy – Johnny Boychuk
Calvin de Haan – Scott Mayfield
Thomas Hickey – Ryan Pulock
Tonight will be the first time that Jordan Eberle faces off against the team that drafted him in the Oilers. Eberle was sent to New York in June in exchange for Ryan Strome. So far this season, Eberle has recorded 4-7-11 for New York and is fifth in team scoring for the Islanders. Ryan Strome has 2-3-5 in 13 games for the Oilers.
The team’s have split the last two season series, with the road team winning both games last season. Edmonton knocked off the Islanders 4-3 in a shootout on November 5th, 2016 at the Barclay’s Center before dropping the meeting between the sides later in the season. This year’s season series will conclude in Edmonton on March 8th.
The Oilers are the worst offense in the National Hockey League coming into tonight’s game, but scoring hasn’t been an issue in Brooklyn. The Islanders are averaging 3.79 goals per game this season, good for third in the NHL.
Outside of last year’s victory, the Oilers have failed miserably in New York against the Islanders over the years. With a poor offense and penalty kill trying to contain one of the NHL’s highest scoring units, this game has trouble written all over it for the Oilers. The Islanders get one early, and the Oilers struggle to bounce back, falling 4-2 in Brooklyn.
The Islanders get goals from Lee, Clutterbuck, Eberle and Barzal, while Edmonton gets tallies from Lucic and Jokinen.
Regardless of my prediction, tonight is a huge game for Edmonton. The Oilers need to start winning hockey games, it is no longer early in the season. The hole is getting bigger, and whether you want to admit it or not, the playoffs are slipping away.
The Oilers need to turn this thing around, right now.