Oilers-Islanders Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 30, 2011
ANDY LEFKOWITZ STATS Writer Both the Edmonton Oilers and New York Islanders appear headed to another season without reaching the playoffs. While the teams are at the bottom of their respective divisions, they're loaded with young stars that should eventually help end those postseason droughts. In a game featuring the last three No. 1 overall picks in the NHL entry draft, the Oilers continue their season-high seven-game road trip Saturday afternoon against the Islanders. New York's John Tavares was selected first overall in 2009, and the franchise cornerstone is expected to remain with the team through 2018 after inking a six-year extension in September. With 12 goals and 17 assists in 35 games, Tavares is on pace to virtually match his statistics from last season, when he set career bests with 29 goals and 38 assists. After finishing at the bottom of the league with 62 points each of the last two seasons, Edmonton ended up with the No. 1 pick both times, choosing Taylor Hall in 2010 and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins this past summer. Among rookies, Hall was fourth with 22 goals and eighth with 42 points in 2010-11. Nugent-Hopkins, who won't turn 19 until April, leads all rookies this season with 13 goals, 22 assists - including 15 on the power play - and 35 points. Edmonton's swing has gotten off to a rough start with consecutive losses to division rivals. After falling in Vancouver on Monday, the Oilers were beaten 4-3 by Minnesota on Thursday. Hall scored his 10th goal just 1:24 into the contest, but Edmonton (15-18-3) fell for the sixth time in seven games and sits 13th in the Western Conference. "We came back with a lot of intensity and we can hang our hats on that, but at the end of the day when we don't get a win after we're winning, that's tough," said Hall, who hasn't had goals in consecutive games since Oct. 25 and 27. Jordan Eberle - the 22nd overall pick by Edmonton in 2008 - had an assist against the Wild, giving him five goals and three assists in a six-game point streak. After posting three goals and eight assists in his first 16 games, Eberle has 13 and 15 in 20 contests to become the team's leading scorer. Eberle has never played against the Islanders, who have won five straight at home from Edmonton by a 16-8 margin. The Islanders (12-17-6) snapped a three-game skid and earned their first victory in regulation since Dec. 6 by beating Calgary 3-1 on Thursday. New York also improved to 13-1-7 in its 21 games at Nassau Coliseum against Western opponents. "It's nice to get a win. We came out hungry," said Tavares who snapped a 1-1 tie early in the third period and added an assist. Tavares has scored 10 of his 12 goals this season at home, where New York is 7-9-3. He scored in his only meeting against Edmonton, a 3-1 win on Nov. 2, 2009, in the most recent matchup on Long Island. After stopping 29 shots against the Flames to snap a personal three-game skid, Evgeni Nabokov should be back in goal for the Islanders. He is 5-1-0 with a 2.30 goals-against average in the last six starts against the Oilers, but hasn't faced them since March 21, 2010, when he stopped 20 of 25 shots for San Jose in a 5-1 loss.
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