Oilers aim to keep Islanders reeling
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Barring a massive turnaround over the final four weeks of the season, the Edmonton Oilers are headed to the NHL Draft Lottery. A late-season swoon may have the New York Islanders right there with them.
The Oilers will try to complete a sweep of the season series and hand the Islanders their eighth straight loss on Thursday night at Rogers Place.
Edmonton (28-34-4), which is trying to stay out of the Western Conference basement, defeated New York, 2-1, in overtime on Nov. 7. Leon Draisaitl scored in regulation and assisted on Connor McDavid's game-winner.
The Oilers are looking for their seventh win in eight home games over the Islanders and are coming off a 4-3 overtime win over the Arizona Coyotes on Monday. Defenseman Oscar Klefbom scored the game-winner off assists from the Draisaitl and McDavid, who are the team's top two scorers.
"It was very nice for me to finally score a goal," Klefbom told the team's official website after snapping a 33-game drought off assists from McDavid and Draisaitl, who have combined for 51 goals and 89 assists.
McDavid has nine points (three goals, six assists) in a five-game run, and leads the club with 80 points (30 goals, 50 assists).
Draisaitl has collected 11 goals and 17 helpers in his last 25 contests and has not been held without a point in back-to-back games over that span. He has 60 points (21 goals, 39 assists) this season.
Against New York, the Oilers' Cam Talbot is 6-2-0 with a 2.49 goals-against average in eight career starts. Al Montoya has given up 10 goals while winning all four career starts versus the Islanders.
With 15 games to go, the Islanders (29-29-9) are in 11th place in the Eastern Conference and six points behind the Columbus Blue Jackets for the second wild card.
New York's skid continued with Monday's 4-3 overtime loss to the Vancouver Canucks. Former Oiler Jordan Eberle scored for the Islander with 1:04 to play in regulation, but Jaroslav Halak was beaten by Brendan Leipsic in the extra session.
Each of the New York's last two losses came after regulation, and four setbacks during the skid have been one-goal decisions.
"We just seem to find ways to lose," New York center John Tavares told the league's official website. "We've just got to find a way, a full 60 minutes to finish one out. We just haven't seemed to finish games off.
"Whatever that is, whether it's mental or just execution of a few plays, we've just got to find a way to do it. No one's going to feel sorry for us or change the outcome but us."
Mathew Barzal is New York's top scorer during the skid with seven points (two goals, five assists). The 16th overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft leads all rookies with 69 points (18 goals, 51 assists) -- 15 more than the Canucks' Brock Boeser, who is expected to miss the remainder of the season with a back injury.
New York has scored 16 goals during its skid but keeping the puck out of the net is a bigger problem. Halak is 0-4-2 with a 3.67 GAA and .870 save percentage with Christopher Gibson accounting for the other defeat in his season debut last Saturday.
Halak has yielded 12 goals while recording one win in his last four starts versus the Oilers.
One Islander who may have some butterflies heading into this matchup is Eberle, who was selected 22nd overall by Edmonton in the 2008 NHL Draft, and dealt to the Islanders last June for center Ryan Strome.
Eberle is third on New York with 23 goals, including a team-best six game-winners. He averaged 23.5 goals in seven seasons with the Oilers.
"He spent a lot of time here and put in some good years," Edmonton center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. "Hopefully they cheer him on loud. When your buddies like that go somewhere else, you still want them to succeed. It's good to see him playing well."
Strome, who is fifth on the Oilers with 31 points, has three goals and four assists in his last six games.
Updated March 8, 2018