FIVE KEYS TO THE GAME

5 p.m., Nas­sau Vet­er­ans Memo­rial Coli­seum, TV: Sport­snet Oil­ers; Ra­dio: 630 CHED

Edmonton Sun - - SPORTS -

1 Play­ing tighter

Oil­ers coach Dave Tip­pett loves be­ing 2-0 to start the sea­son head­ing out on a four-game trip, but while coaches don’t ex­pect per­fec­tion, they hope for bet­ter 200-foot de­fen­sive work and, in the 6-5 win over Los An­ge­les, it was far too loose for Tip­pett. As his best, de­fence­man Os­car Klef­bom said “we outscored our mis­takes. You give up five goals and you don’t ex­pect to win.”

2 Not much breath­ing room

The Is­lan­ders won the Jen­nings tro­phy last sea­son for the fewest goals al­lowed (196) un­der new coach Barry Trotz, with goalies Thomas Greiss and the de­parted Robin Lehner (Chicago) each play­ing 40 games. In their first two games this year, the Trotz-led Is­lan­ders have given up three goals in a W (Jets) and a L (Cap­i­tals). And only two goals at even-strength in the two games. Trotz coached his 1,608th game Sun­day against Win­nipeg to move into third all-time be­hind Scotty Bow­man and Joel Quen­neville.

3 Let­ting good times roll

The Oil­ers have opened 2-0 for only the third time in the past 10 years. It also hap­pened in 2016-17 en route to their 103-point sea­son and, yes, they got blown out in Game 3 by Buf­falo at home. In 2010-2011, Tay­lor Hall’s first Oil­ers sea­son, they opened with home wins over Cal­gary and Florida then, uh, lost six in a row, two to Cal­gary, two to Min­nesota, Chicago and San Jose. They fin­ished with only 62 points, so we’ve seen both ends of the spec­trum af­ter a 2-0 start. The most re­cent time the Oil­ers started 3-0 was in 2008-09.

4 Spread­ing blue-line min­utes around

The Oil­ers are start­ing two rook­ies in their top four in Ethan Bear and Joel Pers­son. Bear’s with Dar­nell Nurse in a quasi-shut­down pair­ing while Pers­son is with Swedish coun­try­man Klef­bom. Bear got 19 min­utes against Los An­ge­les and Pers­son al­most 15. With­out Lars­son to eat up min­utes, the third pair­ing of Matt Ben­ning and Kris Rus­sell should prob­a­bly be in the 15-minute range too.

5 Keep­ing Barzal off the board

Mathew Barzal is the Is­lan­ders best player on an of­fen­sively chal­lenged team that was 21st in goals last year and 29th on the power play. He cen­tres their No. 1 line with ex-oiler Jor­dan Eberle and cap­tain An­ders Lee, and has 148 points in his first

168 NHL games. Barzal and Oil­ers cen­tre

Ryan Nu­gent-hop­kins got their young hockey start at the same Burn­aby Win­ter Club in Van­cou­ver and Barzal ad­mits that RNH was one of his role mod­els grow­ing up.

USA TO­DAY SPORTS

New York Is­lan­ders cen­tre Mathew Barzal led the team in scor­ing last sea­son with 62 points.

devon TOEWS

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