EDMONTON – Injuries have put a crimp in many of the plans for the top lines of the Edmonton Oilers, but at least one pairing looks to be a lock.
Jordan Eberle had a goal and two assists and linemate David Perron scored twice as the Oilers won their fourth consecutive pre-season game, defeating the New York Rangers 5-3 on Tuesday night.
“We’re playing well together, said Eberle of Perron, who was acquired in the summer in a trade with St. Louis for Magnus Paajarvi. “We play very similar games and I think that helps. He really reads the play. Chemistry is a tough thing to find in this league and when you find it, it is something to keep. Obviously the confidence in each other is there.”
Eberle himself has looked very solid in the lead-up to the regular season, recording a league-high eight points in four exhibition games.
“You can’t look too much into pre-season, but it has been a good start,” he said. “We’re just anxious to get going and do the real thing. I’ve worked all summer to get to a point where I felt good about my game and that’s what the pre-season is about.”
Taylor Hall and Ben Eager also scored for the Oilers, who improved to 5-1-1 in exhibition action.
Hall will be under the gun playing centre for the first time at the NHL level with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins likely out for a month recovering from shoulder surgery and Sam Gagner reportedly expected to miss up to two months after suffering a broken jaw in a pre-season stick to the face from Vancouver’s Zack Kassian.
However, Hall said he is being careful not to put too much pressure on himself despite the new position.
“I’m just trying to have fun with it,” he said. “The second you start thinking too much and have a billion thoughts going through your head when you have the puck is when you don’t play well. I’m just trying to play relaxed and in the moment.”
Marc Staal, Dan Girardi and J.T. Miller replied for the Rangers (1-3-0) who lost games on back-to-back nights in Alberta.
New York struck first eight minutes into the opening period on Tuesday after Oilers defender Jeff Petry hit the side of his own net with a pass and Mats Zuccarello was able to get it behind the net and send it back to Staal at the point. Staal’s long shot through traffic beat Edmonton starter Jason LaBarbera glove side.
Edmonton got that goal back five minutes later just as a power play concluded as Hall was able to tip a Justin Schultz shot past Rangers goalie Martin Biron.
The Oilers took a 2-1 lead on a goal with just 30 seconds remaining in the first period as Mark Arcobello sent a long lead pass toward the Rangers net and Perron was able to out-hustle New York defenceman Aaron Johnson to the puck and chip it past Biron for his fourth of the pre-season.
Edmonton made it 3-1 on a power play goal just past the one-minute mark of the second period. Petry sent the puck in front of the net and Perron was there to make a perfect deflection into the net for his second goal of the game.
The Rangers came right back a minute later, as Miller picked up a rebound in front of the Edmonton net and hooked it past LaBarbera in his first game of the pre-season for New York.
New York had a glorious chance to tie it midway through the second frame with a two-man advantage, however it went awry as Eager got the puck just as he was coming out of the box for the first penalty and his shot hit the post before coming back to hit Biron’s leg and carom into the net for a short-handed goal.
The Rangers controlled the bulk of the play in the third, but Edmonton padded its lead as rookie Darnell Nurse send a pass from behind the net and Eberle was able to lift a backhand shot in to make it 5-2.
New York finished the scoring with a power play goal on a point shot by Girardi with four minutes remaining.
The Rangers continue their western Canadian pre-season trip in Vancouver on Thursday. The Oilers are off until Friday when they face the Dallas Stars in Oklahoma City.
Notes: Both teams played the night before with the Oilers winning 2-1 over the Winnipeg Jets and the Rangers falling 4-1 in Calgary…Edmonton starts the regular season on Tuesday, Oct. 1 at home to the Winnipeg Jets. The Rangers open the season in Phoenix on Oct. 3. It is the first of nine straight on the road for the Rangers, as renovations to Madison Square Garden will keep the team out of New York until Oct. 28…New York’s leading scorer from last season, Derek Stepan, remains unsigned with the regular season looming. The 23-year-old centre amassed 44 points in last year’s shortened season…The Oilers placed forward Linus Omark on waivers on Tuesday for the purpose of assigning him to their AHL squad in Oklahoma City.