Kings-sized challenge for Oilers

Edmonton Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney celebrates his goal Tuesday night against the San Jose...

Edmonton Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney celebrates his goal Tuesday night against the San Jose Sharks. Whitney was credited with the goal, which was later awarded to Dustin Penner, but then re-awarded to Whitney Wednesday. (Chad Ziemendorf, Reuters)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:48 PM ET

EDMONTON - LOS ANGELES — The Edmonton Oilers would like to bottle what they did in the first period in San Jose, and take it into their contest against the Los Angeles Kings Thursday.

On Tuesday, the Oilers were able to limit San Jose’s high-powered offence to just five shots in the first period.

“I think that was our best first period in a long time,” said Oilers defenceman Tom Gilbert. “I think a lot of it was our system play, we never backed down, even though they had us in our zone for a little bit.

“Besides that, we moved the puck well, we had smart dump ins, and I didn’t think we gave them anything. It was a case of everyone working together as a unit.”

The Oilers went on to concede a pair of goals in the second period, and in the end, fell 2-1 to the Sharks in the first game of their two-game trip prior to the Christmas break.

Overall, however, the Oilers were happy with their defensive game, conceding one goal due to a costly turnover in the neutral zone and the other on the power play.

“We were able to keep the Sharks to the outside,” said Oilers head coach Tom Renney. “They had some zone time on us, but they didn’t generate a whole lot of shots and when they did try to access the net, we were on the right side and made it more difficult for them to get there.”

In the Kings, the Oilers are going up against another team that is strong offensively. They have six players who have already registered 20 points or more this season and average nearly three goals per game.

“They generate an awful lot from their back end,” said Renney. “They can transition the game well, their defencemen can skate the puck up the ice and they can also pass it. They have a couple of guys back there — No. 8 (Drew Doughty) being one of them, that’s an extra forward every time he’s on the ice.

“We have to make sure that when they are in transition, that they have to come a long way and they have to come through some bodies at least.”

The Kings head into the game coming off an impressive 5-0 victory over the Colorado Avalanche Tuesday in Denver.

They are currently in a battle for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, 10 points up on the Oilers.

“They are a team that have some big forwards that go to the net and we have to be good in our own zone,” said Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney. “They’re also tough to play at home.”

Last season, the Oilers were able to win both games against the Kings at the Staples Center. Conversely, the Kings won both games at Rexall Place.

However, the Oilers are a vastly different team this season, while the Kings are a year more experienced, having snapped a long playoff drought last year.

“We need to go into Los Angeles with the same approach that we played San Jose,” said Oilers rookie Jordan Eberle. “We don’t want to sit back and see what will happen, we want to go at them.

“In the first period against the Sharks, I thought we did that. We only gave up five shots and even though we only had five, we played very well defensively.”

Offensively, Eberle’s line with Taylor Hall and Sam Gagner created the majority of the chances for the Oilers against the Sharks.

They’ll need to be buzzing once again in order to have a shot at beating the Kings.

“We need to be confident in our ability and our team’s ability going into the game,” Eberle said. “I think our line has played well in the last few games, we’re cycling the puck and having some success against some pretty good lines.

“If we can continue to do that, I think things are going to get better as the games go along.”

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/DerekVanDiest


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