First-place Oilers start long road trip by facing Kings
OILERS (7-2-2) at KINGS (6-3-2)
TV: SNET-West, FS-West (HD)
Edmonton 6-2-2; Los Angeles 5-3-2
First of four meetings. The Kings swept the Oilers last season, outscoring them 12-5 in the process. Drew Doughty
led all scorers in the series with 3 goals. Jonathan Quick
and Jonathan Bernier
split the goaltending duties, each picking up two wins. Bernier recorded a shutout in the most recent matchup, stopping 32 shots in a 2-0 victory in Edmonton on March 29.
Undoubtedly the biggest surprise of October, the first-place Oilers face a stiff test to begin the season's second month. Thursday's date with the Kings marks the beginning of a six-game road trip, and all told Edmonton will play 10 of its next 12 games away from Rexall Place.
There seemed to be little doubt Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would be staying put in Edmonton -- once the No. 1 pick in the 2011 NHL Draft played in his 10th game and it became official, the focus turned to what he's capable of moving forward. Nugent-Hopkins was held scoreless his first game after the cutoff, but he contributed a pair of assists Sunday as the Oilers ran their win streak to five with a 4-2 decision over the Blues. Ryan Smyth scored twice and Nikolai Khabibulin stayed unbeaten in regulation with 27 saves.
"He's such a good leader," coach Tom Renney said of Smyth, who was reacquired this summer and is tied for second on the team in scoring behind Nugent-Hopkins. "He's a heart-and-soul guy. Your young guys need to see that if we're going to win a Cup one day."
Conversely, while its opponent will spend most of the next several weeks living out of suitcases, Los Angeles begins a stretch where six of the next seven will be at Staples Center -- and the lone road game is against its California neighbor San Jose. The Kings will be looking to pick up two points after consecutive 3-2 road losses to the Coyotes and Avalanche -- they earned a point by taking the Phoenix game to overtime before falling. On the plus side, Doughty played in both those games after missing five due to an upper-body injury.
"We've got to try to generate more," forward Jarret Stoll
said. "We got a lot of shots blocked in the second half of the game tonight. Teams, everyone is blocking shots, everyone is getting in lanes. We've got to find a way to work harder and get pucks to the net, make plays and figure out a way to just get the puck on net and score some ugly goals, get to those tough areas to score more goals."
Smyth has 3 goals and 2 assists in the Oilers' past two games. Jordan Eberle has 3 goals and 4 assists in the last five games. Khabibulin, who ranked third in the NHL's Player of the Month voting for October, has a League-leading 1.12 goals-against average and .960 save percentage. … Anze Kopitar
has 2 goals and 2 assists during a three-game points streak for the Kings. Dustin Brown
has 1 goal and 4 assists during a three-game points streak.
Edmonton defenseman Cam Barker is day-to-day with a sore shoulder. Defenseman Ryan Whitney (knee) and forwards Ales Hemsky (shoulder) and Darcy Hordichuk (knee) are on injured reserve. … Los Angeles forward Simon Gagne
(undisclosed) is day-to-day, while forward Colin Fraser (ankle) is on injured reserve.
Oilers backup Devan Dubnyk has been overlooked with Khabibulin's torrid start, but he's posted an excellent 1.98 GAA and .938 save percentage in splitting his four starts. … Both of the Kings' goals against the Avalanche came on the power play, where they are ranked fourth in the League this season at 23.1 percent.
Edmonton defenseman Andy Sutton scored the game-winning goal in the second period Friday in Colorado but was involved in a third-period incident in which he delivered an elbow to the head of rookie forward Gabriel Landeskog. Sutton was suspended for Sunday's game against St. Louis and an additional four games following a disciplinary hearing Tuesday.