Oilers look to lift game at home vs. Golden Knights
EDMONTON, Alberta -- The Edmonton Oilers return home from a 2-1-1 road trip that has stabilized what had been a rocky start to the season.
But the Oilers (6-9-2) may not want to come back to Edmonton. That's where they'll face the Vegas Golden Knights (10-5-1) on Tuesday night. Edmonton is just 3-6-0 at Rogers Place this season.
"We'll take the five of eight (possible points on the recent road trip), we wish we could have got more," Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. "But now we have a real test ahead of us going home, where we haven't performed well."
"We were down in a lot of these games by one goal," said Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse of the team's improved play on the road. "But we never folded our hand. We always continued to play. That's a good sign."
But can Edmonton's improved defensive play on the four-game road trip be translated to Tuesday's home game? Because the team has been Jekyll-and-Hyde between home and road.
The Oilers' lack of success at home can be linked to how bad the club's special teams have been on Rogers Place ice. The penalty kill is a lowly 71.4 percent overall, but it's even worse at home. Road teams have converted 12 of 26 power plays in Rogers Place this season, a stunning success rate of 46 percent. For all intents and purposes, the visitors convert on half the power-plays they get.
Talk about being accommodating hosts.
Vegas's power-play is humming along at a decent 20.3 percent clip.
Now, when it comes to how the Oilers can hurt other teams, the conversation always moves to Connor McDavid. Last season's MVP is off to a decent start, with 19 points in 17 games, but he was held off the scoresheet in Sunday's 2-1 shootout loss in Washington.
Even with McDavid, the Oilers have the NHL's worst offense with just 38 goals in 17 games. So, with that in mind, Vegas coach Gerard Gallant doesn't think his team will go into Edmonton and worry so much about adjusting to the Oilers' game.
"I play our game," Gallant said. "We're a fast team and that's how we're going to play our games all year long. Edmonton's got McDavid, who's probably the fastest in the league, real quick, and they're playing a lot better lately. We're going to go in there, no matter who we're playing, trying to play our game."
As an expansion team, the Vegas roster was built on castoffs from the 30 other teams. Nate Schmidt said that has been an inspiration for the league's most surprising team. The dressing room is already close-knit, despite the short period of time the players have been together.
So whenever Vegas sees another team on the schedule, it represents a club that gave up on someone on the Golden Knights' roster. And the team rallies.
"Guys want to fight for that guy when we're in town," Schmidt said. "You want to be in a battle for your teammates."
The Golden Knights plucked Griffin Reinhart from the Oilers in the expansion draft, but Reinhart is with Vegas's AHL affiliate in Chicago. No inspiration there. But the team can look from to David Perron, who leads the Golden Knights with 14 points in 16 games. Perron played 116 games for the Oilers between 2013-15.
Gallant confirmed that goalies Marc-Andre Fleury (concussion) and Oscar Dansk, who was hurt two weeks ago in a game against the New York Islanders, aren't healthy enough to start the road trip. Defenseman Luca Sbisa is also out.
Oilers forwards Anton Slepyshev and Drake Caggiula missed Sunday's game in Washington because of injury and the team did not update their status on Monday.
Updated November 14, 2017