Cam Talbot makes back-to-back starts with Wild in town … Russian winger Zykov debuts … Oilers need to keep finding any way to win that they possibly can
Edmonton Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot started his second-consecutive game for the first time since the end of October.
Talbot had taken a backseat to Mikko Koskinen for the past six weeks, but had an excellent outing in a 3-2 shootout win, on the road, against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday, which earned him another start Friday against the Minnesota Wild.
“I think if we’re going to grow as a team, you have to reward performances,” said Oilers head coach Ken Hitchcock prior to the contest. “Talbot was excellent in St. Louis and we knew we had two important games against two really good teams, Minnesota and Calgary (Sunday), so we opted to reward Talbot and Mikko will play against Calgary.
“I’ve said this to people before, rhythm is important. We have to get our goalies in a little better rhythm than what we were doing and this allows us to do that. But it’s also based on reward. When a guy plays that well, you want to give him a second opportunity.”
Talbot made 28 saves in the victory against the Blues and was outstanding in the second and third periods, keeping the Oilers in it after having fallen behind 2-0 in the first.
Talbot went on to make two saves in the shootout to record the 100th victory of his NHL career. It was his first win since a 2-1 overtime victory against the Chicago Blackhawks on Oct. 28. Talbot then went on to lose six straight.
“Whenever you go through a stretch like that, the next win is obviously a big one,” Talbot said. “But it being it the 100th in my NHL career and having my dad in the crowd made it a little extra special.”
Heading into the game against the Wild, Talbot had a 6-9-1 record with a 3.19 goals-against average and .892 save percentage. He had lost his starting job to Koskinen, who has an 8-3-1 record with a 2.23 goals-against average and .925 save percentage.
“Everyone goes through these kinds of stretches,” Talbot said. “You don’t lose your ability to play hockey in a month, so it’s just gaining that confidence back as a goaltender, going out there, staying focused on your game and trying to build off of every save. I thought I did a pretty good job of that (Wednesday).”
ZYKOV MAKES DEBUT
Valentin Zykov did not seem overly concerned with how local broadcasters pronounced his name.
The newest member of the Oilers told both radio and television broadcasters they could pronounce it however they wished, it really didn’t matter to him.
What does matter to Zykov was making a good impression with the Oilers after failing to do so with the Carolina Hurricanes, who waved the Russian winger at the end of November.
The Oilers claimed Zykov, but he had to stay home with visa issues during their recent two-game road trip to face the Dallas Stars and the Blues.
“I had to get a new visa,” Zykov said. “As I figured out a few days ago, my previous one is only useful for U.S. teams, and since I changed to a team that is now located in Canada, I had to get a new visa to travel.”
Selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the second round (37 overall) of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Zykov, 23, has yet to gain a solid foothold in the NHL. This season, the sixfoot-one, 225-pound winger had three assists in 13 games with Carolina. He had three goals and seven points in 10 games last year after spending the majority of the season with the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League.
“I’m excited to be in the lineup and I just want to play and do my best out there,” Zykov said. “For now, I just want to go out there and just play hard. I want to be a productive and effective player on the ice.”
JUST WIN BABY
Going in against Minnesota, the Oilers’ five previous wins had all been by one goal.
They are finding ways to grind out victories under Ken Hitchcock, something they struggled to do, at times, with Todd Mclellan at the helm.
“We’re playing as a team, we’re playing together, obviously, we’d like a little more puck luck to go our way and create a little more offence,” said Oilers forward Zack Kassian. “We’re confident if we keep playing the right way good things will happen.”
The Oilers are winning close games more often than losing under Hitchcock, who had a 5-2-1 record with Edmonton heading into the contest against the Wild.
“We’ve always had the belief we can win those games, but it’s maybe a wake-up call when your coach gets fired,” Kassian said. “It’s not all on him, it’s on everyone, everybody has to look in the mirror. Obviously, Hitch has brought in a new set of eyes. The system hasn’t changed a whole lot, but he’s really gotten through to all of us and how to play the right way and he talks about how to play for us, not for you (media). If we play the majority of games the way we have been, we’ll be successful.”
Cam Talbot makes the stop as Joel Eriksson Ek of the Minnesota Wild is waiting for the rebound.