The Edmonton Oilers whiffed on what initially looked like a tap-in victory in their last outing and sustained a 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.
The Oilers are looking at a similar test on Friday when the struggling Los Angeles Kings pay a visit.
Talking points before facing the Kings — who reside in last place in the Western Conference — will be more about urgency and work ethic than Xs and Os.
“We’ve lost three of the last four,” Edmonton center Sam Gagner told Postmedia. “Our mindset has to be no matter who we’re playing against or where we are in the season, we have to continue to build our game. We’re trying to get some traction and we’ve done a pretty good job, but it has to be every night. That’s how you become a top team in the league.”
The Oilers have dropped their last three home games (0-2-1).
Since winning seven of eight games to start the season, Edmonton has posted a 10-9-3 record — and more than once paid a price for potentially underestimating an opponent.
The Oilers dominated the first period and took a 1-0 lead against Ottawa before taking their foot off the gas. Doing the same against the Kings could mean the same result.
“We just stopped playing the right way, cheated for offense,” forward Leon Draisiatl said. “We just can’t seem to find a way to play that over 60 minutes. You’re not going to beat anyone. You’re probably not going to beat an AHL team playing like that.”
The Kings, who have just two wins in their last seven games (2-4-1), arrive in Edmonton after dropping a 3-1 decision to the Washington Capitals at home on Wednesday.
Beating the Metropolitan Division-leading Capitals is a tall order at the best of times, but the Kings made that task even more difficult on themselves by falling behind early yet again.
“There has to be a stronger belief system at the beginning, and we have to be a lot more aggressive and impose our game on the other team, not sit back,” Los Angeles coach Todd McLellan said. “Once it got to (2-0 for Washington), I thought we said, ‘You know what, let’s just go play, we’ve got nothing to lose,’ and we became a better team.”
As the Kings embark on a difficult stretch in the schedule with 10 of the next 12 games on the road, they must find a winning formula.
“Unfortunately we’ve been in this position quite a few times that we’ve learned already how to come out of that,” captain Anze Kopitar said. “We’ve just got to make sure that we don’t get into that situation too often.”
If the Kings are hoping to create a miracle season akin to what the St. Louis Blues enjoyed in 2018-19, they had best start now. Los Angeles has a dreadful 2-10-1 road record, and continuing that trend over the next few weeks could be fatal to any postseason aspirations.
“We’re struggling scoring goals right now, so the mistakes are magnified and they end up costing you wins. So, a lot to work on,” McLellan said. “Tomorrow’s a new day. Practice, and we’re going to have to get better on the road because we’re going to see a lot of hotel rooms over the next little bit.”
–Field Level Media