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 Sun - - SPORTS -

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.”

SHAUGHN BUTTS / POST­MEDIA

Cam Tal­bot makes the stop as Joel Eriks­son Ek of the Min­nesota Wild is wait­ing for the re­bound.

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