Oilers winger Matt Hendricks returns to Nashville for the first time since he was traded to the Oilers last January.
Hendricks has now played more games as an Oiler (48) than he did as a Predator (44) and talked about his time in Edmonton so far.
“It’s been great. We’ve got a really good team," he said. "We’re building, constantly getting better and it’s been a lot of fun to be a part of that and hopefully it’s continued and we keep climbing the ladder."
This will be the fourth time that the Oilers have played the Preds since acquiring Hendricks. Edmonton won both meetings last year by a score of 5-1 but earlier this season the Predators prevailed 4-1 at Rexall Place.
"We got to play them a few times last year in Edmonton and beat them so that was a good time but we lost the last one in Edmonton. This is my first time back so it’ll be fun to come in here and beat them," said Hendricks.
Hendricks was also asked about how the Nashville squad's playing style has changed with new head coach Peter Laviolette.
"Their structure has changed. The way they play throughout the neutral zone is up-tempo. If they turn the puck over that leads to transition in a real hurry and that just leads to more offence.
"We have to be very good with the puck. We have to keep it on our stick. If we can’t make plays we’ve got to get it deep and go to work because if we turn it over, they’re going to come back the other way in a real hurry."
Oilers forward David Perron -- who didn't skate on Monday due to a maintenance day, but will play Tuesday -- talked after practice about how big of a test Tuesday's game in Nashville will be.
“It was really awesome to see the way we played yesterday, for sure," Perron began. "I think this next game will be a really big test. Buffalo’s a team, obviously we know where they are in the standings and the Rangers just played a really emotional game the night before. We all know back-to-backs when you have to travel are pretty hard. It’s not easy.”
The winger talked about the fact that if the Oilers want to take that next step, it's games like Friday in Buffalo and Sunday in New York that they should be winning on a very regular basis. Games like Tuesday where both teams are well rested, if they can start winning those more often it will be a true sign of progression.
“If we can put on that same performance next game against Nashville we’ll know we’re more for real than anything. It’s really nice to see those steps against the Rangers and against the Sabres but it’s points for me that we have to have when a team’s playing back-to-back like that.”
Line combinations are:
Pouliot - RNH - Eberle
Klefbom (for Perron) - Arcobello - Yakupov
Pakarinen - Draisaitl - Purcell
Hendricks - Gordon - Joensuu
David Perron absent from today's practice for the Oilers. Just a maintenance day. EDM 5-4 in last 9 trips to Nashville.— Jack Michaels (@EdmontonJack) November 10, 2014
Benoit Pouliot's homecoming to New York went about as well as he could have possibly imagined.
With a goal -- the game winner -- and an assist, he was named the game's first star.
"I did (feel an extra jump)," he said. "I've always loved playing here. Last year was awesome. Now coming back here and playing against those guys who I had a great time with is going to push you a little more. You want to do well. We came out with a win so that was huge for us. Two wins in a row. Got to keep it rolling."
Pouliot's two points increased his season point total from four to six (now two goals, four assists).
"I've just got to go day-by-day. I don't worry about what's going to happen later on. Tomorrow's practice, next game is Nashville and we'll see how it goes. I'll keep working hard and keep trying my best and things will probably turn around."
With the net empty, Viktor Fasth took a shot at scoring but came well short of achieving the rare feat for goaltenders.
"It's just lack of skills," Fasth laughed when asked why he couldn't convert. "I don't think I'll get a better chance than that but unfortunately I couldn't get it away."
After the game, Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins talked about the ongoing process as the Oilers learn to become a more consistent team.
“It’s the process. Our guys, they’re slowly getting it. It takes time to build a program, to understand the program and to get better. Our guys this year have been excellent students of the game. They’re working a lot on the fundamentals. Our group’s different. We’ve got a little bit more NHL experience now. And some of our key guys are getting stronger,” Eakins began.
One of the players making big strides is Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who had a goal and an assist with five shots on goal in 20:40 in icetime in the win.
“Again tonight, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. This kid is coming like gangbusters right now and that’s important," Eakins continued. "And we’ve got other guys coming right behind him, too. I thought it was a great team effort.”
Another key indicator of team effort was seeing how the team played while up 2-1. The Rangers didn't get a shot on goal for the first half of the third period.
"We were still being aggressive," Eakins said, answering why the team was successful. "We don’t want to change our game much when we do have the lead. We had success throughout the game playing an aggressive game. Other than tweaking it just a tiny bit, our guys stayed with that aggression.
"When you start getting the result like that, there’s not that negative thought in your head that something bad’s going to happen. It’s, hey, if we continue doing this we’re going to be rewarded. But for me it was our aggression still in the game and not coming off it."
Nugent-Hopkins contrasted the team's performance today with their game in Boston where they did let a 2-1 third period lead slip away.
"Against Boston we didn’t do a good enough job, just a few big mistakes. We limited those tonight. It really goes to show how much more mature our team is.”
The Oilers are on the ice for morning skate at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Forward lines are:
UPDATE: Viktor Fasth gets the start in goal today.
The Oilers came into Buffalo on difficult circumstances, having played the night before in Boston. But Coach Eakins felt that the team managed to put all that aside to play a very good game, with a 3-2 win and 52 shots on goal.
"Sometimes these things don’t set up very well. You’ve lost a few in a row and you’re coming in to play a team that’s struggling and you’re playing back-to-back," Eakins began. "The odds aren’t lining up very well for you. But I thought our guys were excellent tonight. I thought that not only did they play well, they had great energy on the bench when we got down. They all took a deep breath and got back to work."
Over Thursday and Friday's games, the Oilers were pushed to the max physically but still managed to pull through in the third period with a big come-from-behind win.
"Our fitness levels were tested tonight. The guys have done an excellent job over the past year — through the summer — to prepare for games like this," said Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins. "It certainly paid off tonight because we were able to keep the pace high with very little let-up."
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Benoit Pouliot, for example, each played well over 40 minutes of hockey over the two nights. Nugent-Hopkins had almost 24 minutes on Thursday and played nearly 18 minutes Friday. He was 59% on face-offs with three hits and five shots on goal to help lead the Oilers to the win.
Goaltender Viktor Fasth led the Oilers onto the ice for pre-game warm-ups and will start in goal against the Sabres.
All seven defencemen on the roster are taking warm-up: Klefbom, Marincin, Schultz, Aulie, Petry, Fayne and Nikitin.
The defence pairings will be:
Up front, Pakarinen and Yakupov swap:
Marincin in Klefbom out. D: 86-2, 22-5, 85-19, Fasth starts— Bob Stauffer (@Bob_Stauffer) November 7, 2014