Todd McLellan expected a challenge when he took the helm of the Edmonton Oilers. He certainly got one.
McLellan is likely to shake things up on the power play as the winless Oilers try to snap a seven-game losing streak against the Calgary Flames on Saturday night.
Edmonton (0-4-0) has missed the playoffs nine straight seasons and turned to McLellan to end that streak. So far, the Oilers aren’t providing much hope it’ll end in 2015-16 – they’ve been outscored 13-5 while failing to register a point.
They dropped their first five a year ago.
"I’m not surprised – I’m a little disappointed – but I’m not surprised," McLellan told the team’s official website. "The players who haven’t been here for very long, they’re wondering and they’re not sure. Players who have been here for awhile they’re going to be the big ones who are going to dictate where we go, how they react to the four losses.
"We knew that we had a lot of work to do here and that hasn’t changed."
Edmonton, though, is starting to feel some pressure after dropping its home opener 4-2 to St. Louis on Thursday.
"I think the whole fan base is impatient right now and we are feeling that right now," said left wing Taylor Hall, who got his first goal of the season Thursday. "We don’t want to be down 0-4 to start the year. That’s probably the worst-case scenario. When you looked at it mid-summer, this is probably the worst you could have imagined. We have to find a way."
In search of answers, McLellan is expected to shuffle the power play, which has gone 1 for 14.
Connor McDavid will remain on one of the units as he tries to bounce back from his worst performance through four games. The 18-year-old phenom, the top pick in last summer’s draft, was a minus-3 against the Blues after scoring his first career goal in a 4-2 loss at Dallas two days prior.
"As much pressure as this team has from the outside, I think internally we’re putting even more pressure on ourselves to succeed," McDavid said. "We had high expectations for this year. We’ll get this thing turned around."
The Oilers can start by beating the Flames for the first time since a 2-0 victory at Calgary on Dec. 27, 2013. They’ve been outscored 31-10 while the Flames have dominated the Battle of Alberta of late.
The Flames (1-3-0) are trying to avoid a three-game slide after being outshot 22-9 over the last two periods of Friday’s 3-1 defeat at Winnipeg. They gave up the decisive tally with 1:28 left in regulation.
"We did lots of good things," coach Bob Hartley said. "We have lots of young players who are learning the game, especially the NHL game, and how to play in late minutes. But they got the last shot and they deserve to win."
Johnny Gaudreau failed to get on the scoresheet Friday after totaling five points through the first three games. The left wing finished last season tied for the rookie scoring lead with 64 points, but he had just two goals in five matchups with Edmonton.
Dennis Wideman has eight points in his last eight meetings with the Oilers, while Sean Monahan has accumulated that many in nine.