Now in his 22nd season as an NHL coach, Ken Hitchcock likes what hes seen so far in his latest gig even if wins have been hard to come by.
Ranked third all-time with 824 wins, Hitchcock became the Oilers 15th coach last Tuesday after the team fired Todd McLellan following a 9-10-1 start.
But Edmonton (10-11-2) lost for the eighth time in 10 games with Sundays 5-2 defeat to the last-place Los Angeles Kings. The Oilers surrendered three third-period goals two nights after giving up the tying tally in the final minute before losing in overtime to the Anaheim Ducks.
After a 1-1-1 trip through California, Hitchcock still exudes passion.
“Im really impressed. Im way more impressed than I am disappointed. I see a group that cares deeply,” said Hitchcock, who also guided the Stars to the franchises lone Stanley Cup title in 1999. “Weve got to work on some things and I got after it today pretty good on the bench today a couple times to get people to change their thinking, but I see a lot (of) things as a coach youve got to like.”
One of those pieces is winger Alex Chiasson, who scored twice Sunday and may have found a home with the Oilers – his fifth team in seven seasons. Originally drafted by Dallas in 2009, Chiasson has given Edmonton some unexpected secondary scoring after joining the team four days before the season opener.
With 10 goals through 17 games, Chiasson is three markers short of tying a career high set over 79 games with the Stars in 2013-14, and hes buying in to what Hitchcock wants.
“Were right in the mix here of doing good things.” Chiasson said. “Its on us as players to take it to the next level. We have (three) games at home here coming up and those will be key games for us to play (at) home in front of our fans.”
The Oilers are 4-4-1 at home, but have alternated losses and wins over the last seven games.
Connor McDavid, a Hart Trophy winner looking for this third straight scoring crown, looks to show up on the scoresheet against Dallas for the eighth time in as many career games. The top overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft has seven goals and four assists during his streak, which includes a hat trick in November 2016 in Texas.
The Stars will try to avoid their fourth loss in five games after dropping a 3-2 decision to the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday. With less than three minutes left and Dallas (12-10-2) clinging to a one-goal lead, Anton Khudobin gave up the tying and go-ahead goals 46 seconds apart.
Still, first-year coach Jim Montgomery liked what he saw throughout.
“I see growth tonight. This is the first time where weve had a setback where we competed for 60 minutes. For me, this is the first time where we lost where Im excited about where were going,” he said.
Though hes appeared in only seven of the Stars 12 road contests this season, Alexander Radulov is tied with Jamie Benn for the team lead with eight points. The Russian winger recorded his second consecutive two-assist game on Saturday and has five helpers in a three-game streak.
Radulov, who missed six games at the start of November due to a lower-body injury, registered eight points (three goals, five assists) in last seasons three-game series with Edmonton.