Hall says “more liberties” being taken against young Oilers in AHL

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Are the young Oilers currently with AHL Oklahoma City — Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Justin Schultz — playing with targets on their backs?

That was the question raised by Terry Jones of the Edmonton Sun after a rough weekend of action.

On Friday, Nugent-Hopkins received some free (and crude) dental work while playing against Houston and Schultz — the reigning AHL Player of the Week — was given an especially rough ride, with Barons head coach Todd Nelson noting that “Houston keyed on him quite a bit.”

The keying continued on Sunday.

In Oklahoma City’s 4-2 win over Texas, Stars forward Antoine Roussel went knee-on-knee with Eberle, earning a five-minute major and game misconduct in the process.

“It was on my knee,” Eberle said afterward. “Was it intentional? Who knows?”

All of this alleged targeting comes at a precarious time.

Taylor Hall is primed to join the OKC lineup this week and play his first competitive games since undergoing shoulder surgery in May.

That’s another high-profile star set to join the Barons, and Hall is keenly aware of the treatment his teammates have been getting.

From The Sun:

Hall said from what he’s seen the league is a little more “reckless” and maybe the NHL guys are targets to some extent, but not to the degree it changes his idea about getting cleared to join his linemates and Schultz in action.

“Against Houston, remember we were going against two NHL defencemen on that team, too. It was definitely like playing them in the NHL.

“But I do think there is more liberties being taken against us, hacking and slashing and that sort of stuff. To me, it just amps me up.

“But Nuge takes that high stick and guys are playing us a lot tougher.”

All that said, the young Oilers realize this is an important part of the maturation process. If they can’t handle the heat in the AHL, they aren’t going to handle it in the NHL.

“There are going to be guys coming at you,” Schultz said. “They’re fighting for a job. They’re trying to prove themselves. I took a couple extra hacks. But I expect it. I have to prove I can handle it.

“I’m trying to prove myself, too.”

Ducks take control of second in Pacific after edging Oilers

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Connor McDavid was fantastic on Wednesday, but the Anaheim Ducks overcame his strong showing for a significant win in the Pacific.

McDavid scored a goal and two assists, yet Ryan Getzlaf was right there with him with three assists, helping the Ducks win 4-3.

With that, Anaheim is clearly ahead of Edmonton for second in the Pacific. The Ducks would hold home-ice over the Oilers if the playoffs began today, and better yet for them, a division title isn’t out of the question:

1. Sharks – 91 points in 73 games played
2. Ducks – 89 points in 73 GP
3. Oilers – 87 points in 73 GP
4. Flames – 86 points in 73 GP

As you can see, the Oilers aren’t exactly far ahead of the Flames for third, either.

Going forward, the Oilers have an interesting schedule: a mix of games against cellar dwellers (two apiece against the Canucks and Avalanche) plus two games apiece versus the Kings and Sharks.

The Ducks’ schedule includes two matches against the Flames, one against the Kings and one more match at Edmonton on April 1.

Long story short, the jockeying for position is far from over, but this was a pretty significant win for the Ducks.

Video: Connor McDavid shows off speed and skill (again)

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Connor McDavid‘s 26th goal of 2016-17 was a lot like many others: an impressive display of skill and speed. He didn’t blaze past the Anaheim Ducks like has against opponents on other occasions, but his rare wheels still came in handy.

Maybe more than sheer speed, this tally is a reminder that McDavid could do impressive things while losing little or no momentum. It’s one thing to have straight-line speed, but he has the hands and hockey IQ to take advantage of his swift skating.

McDavid already has two points in this one, pushing him to 84 points. He also extended his point streak to five games (three goals, six assists if he stays at one of each on Wednesday).

Islanders grab precious points by beating Rangers

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The goal posts might move from time to time – now they’re chasing the Boston Bruins more than the Toronto Maple Leafs – but the bottom line is that the New York Islanders need to get it done to make the playoffs.

They still have some climbing to do, but Wednesday represented a step in the right direction with a tough 3-2 win against the New York Rangers.

The Rangers built 1-0 and 2-1 leads in the second period as John Tavares struggled with a “hat trick” of penalties, but Tavares & Co. wouldn’t give up. They managed two power-play goals in the third (one by Nikolay Kulemin, the winner by Andrew Ladd) to turn things around for a significant win.

Anders Lee was also a big part of the win, grabbing a goal and an assist. The biggest difference-maker may very well have been Thomas Greiss, who stopped 34 of 36 shots (including all 11 in the third) as the Rangers created a lot of offense.

The Islanders now have 80 standings points, placing them two behind the Bruins for the East’s final wild card spot.

The Rangers’ hold over the first wild card seems quite secure, but they do have to worry ever so slightly about their play at home. With this defeat, they’ve now lost seven straight (0-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.

Video: Rick Nash scores 20th goal in sprawling style

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Rick Nash has his critics stemming from his playoff struggles in the past, but for those who support him, moments like these are satisfying.

Why? Because you’d be absurd to discredit how hard he tries when Nash scores goals like he did for the New York Rangers against the New York Islanders on Wednesday.

Nash went all-out for his 20th goal of the season, sprawling after scoring against Thomas Greiss. It’s quite a sight, and Getty Images really was on top of that one.

via Getty Images

The Rangers may need more from him tonight, however, as the Islanders just went up 3-2. Watch the remainder of the contest on NBCSN.