Despite being last in the Northwest Division, the Edmonton Oilers are on the brink of tying a league record in shootout wins. To do that Monday night, they will have to beat the New York Islanders for the first time this decade.
The Oilers (18-21-4), who are seven points behind fourth-place Colorado in the Northwest, are 11-2 in shootouts, one victory shy of the mark set by Dallas in 2005-06. But they have lost six straight to the Islanders (20-16-4) since a 4-2 victory Dec. 14, 1999, including a 3-2 shootout loss in the most recent meeting on Dec. 10, 2005.
Edmonton moved closer to the league record Saturday when Sam Gagner scored the lone shootout goal and Mathieu Garon saved three attempts to secure a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers in the opener of a five-game homestand. The Oilers, who are 2-5-2 in their last nine games, are 6-1 at home in shootouts.
"Right now we aren't in a situation to be picky about how we get wins," said Oilers center Shawn Horcoff, who snapped an eight-game goal drought with his team-leading 17th goal Saturday. "Beggars can't be choosers. We are certainly very comfortable in the shootouts though. When we go to them we don't feel it is a negative thing."
One of the keys for the Oilers has been the outstanding play of Garon, who made 21 saves Saturday and is a league-best 7-0 in shootouts, allowing only two goals on 23 attempts.
"I love the aggressiveness that he demonstrates in coming out and challenging the shooters," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said of Garon. "I don't know why more goalies don't employ that strategy. The shooters get a lot of the credit, but the way he has been playing all we need is one goal out of the three and usually that is enough."
Garon, who has never started against the Islanders, appears to be getting the nod as Edmonton's starter for the rest of the homestand after going 2-1-0 with a 2.86 goals-against average in the last three games. Dwayne Roloson has struggled for most of the season with a 7-12-3 mark and 3.12 GAA.
"It's a critical stretch here," MacTavish said. "It's not a reflection of the way Dwayne has played, it is a reflection that Matty has played.
"You want to give yourself the best chance. It is not a big difference between the two, but I really feel Matty is deserving of the opportunity."
The Islanders are hoping to win in regulation after losing consecutive games in overtime. Rick DiPietro allowed a goal with 2:55 remaining in the extra period Saturday as the Isles lost 2-1 at Colorado. That came after he was beaten 1:33 into OT in Thursday's 4-3 loss to Florida. He totaled 65 saves in the two defeats.
The Islanders have played in a league-high 24 one-goal games, posting a 14-6-4 record.
"One thing about Ricky is that we wouldn't be in the position we are in now without him," Islanders coach Ted Nolan said. "He'll stop a majority of the shots, but we need to give him some more help."
DiPietro is 3-0-0 with a 1.95 GAA against the Oilers, including a 27-save performance on Dec. 10, 2005.
The Islanders last visited Edmonton for a 5-2 win on March 13, 2003.