Mired in a five-game (0-4-1) winless drought on home ice, the Edmonton Oilers will look to turn things around when they host the New York Islanders on Thursday.
Three of those home losses were by a single goal, and the Oilers allowed five unanswered goals in a 5-2 setback against the Vancouver Canucks on Dec. 23.
Tuesday’s 5-2 loss to the Seattle Kraken was some unfortunate deja vu for the Oilers. After Edmonton again jumped to a 2-0 lead through 24 minutes, the Kraken scored the game’s next five goals, including four tallies in an 11:04 stretch in the second period.
“Eleven minutes we fall asleep and they take advantage,” Oilers forward Zach Hyman (one assist) said. “I just think we just stopped playing. We weren’t tight on checks, we had a couple of faceoff goals (against). … We go over things and talk about it, but it is just mental lapses and not being hard on the puck.”
The lack of defense didn’t help goaltender Stuart Skinner, who was pulled after Seattle’s fourth goal. Skinner has become Edmonton’s top choice in net over Jack Campbell, and will probably be back between the pipes on Thursday.
One possible bright spot for the Oilers is that the Islanders have had even less success playing in Edmonton. Dating back to the 2007-08 season, the Islanders are 1-6-3 in their last 10 road games against the Oilers.
However, in more recent results, the Islanders recorded a 3-0 shutout of the Oilers in New York on Nov. 23, with Ilya Sorokin delivering a 49-save gem.
While the Islanders are known more for their ability to keep pucks out of their net, the team was on the right end of a scoring outburst on Tuesday. The Islanders recorded a 6-2 road win over the Canucks, marking just the fourth time this season that New York has hit the six-goal plateau in a game.
All six goals came after a scoreless first period, as Islanders coach Lane Lambert struck gold by changing his top three lines during the first intermission. Though it’s fair to wonder if New York may continue with these new-look lines given Tuesday’s success, Lambert said the changes were “more (about) grabbing attention” of his players.
“I felt like we could play better, and so did they,” Lambert said. “So they did a good job of coming out in the last 40 minutes and playing well.”
Mathew Barzal had a goal and two assists against Vancouver, extending his scoring streak to four games. Barzal has seven points (five goals, two assists) during his streak.
Since the Islanders also face the Calgary Flames on Friday, Sorokin and Semyon Varlamov are likely to split the back-to-back starts in some order. Varlamov hasn’t played since Dec. 17 due to a lower-body injury, but the goalie was activated from the injured reserve and backed up Sorokin in the Vancouver game.
The Islanders have scored power-play goals in two of their last three games, perhaps a sign that the club is breaking out of its season-long slump with the extra attacker. Even with the recent success, New York is only 2-for-32 on the power play over its last 11 games.
On the flip side, Edmonton’s power-play unit continues to flirt with history. The Oilers are 45-for-140 (32.1 percent) on the power play, and are on pace to set a new NHL record for highest power-play percentage in a season.
–Field Level Media