EDMONTON — Slow starts have hampered his chances in the past, but Anton Lander has picked up the preseason pace this year.
Lander recorded a hat trick to take the team lead with five goals and six points in four games as the Edmonton Oilers remained perfect in preseason play, defeating the Arizona Coyotes 4-0 on Tuesday.
“I’m just trying to keep it simple and work hard,” said the 24-year-old Swede, taken in the second round by Edmonton in the 2009 NHL draft. “I’ve been a little lucky to score so many goals, but I’ll take that any day.
“I’m one year older and I think I am learning and getting better. I still have a lot of work to do, but it feels better than last year for me.”
New Oilers head coach Todd McLellan had heard of Lander’s poor starts in the past, but has been impressed with what he has seen under his regime.
“He’s doing some really good things for our team and should feel confident,” he said. “We believe in him. He has brought his game to the table and now we have to grow it.”
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins also scored for the Oilers, who have gone 6-0 in exhibition action.
The Coyotes (0-4-1) have scored just four goals in five preseason match-ups, one fewer than Lander has for Edmonton.
“You have to score to win,” said Arizona head coach Dave Tippett. “We had a lot of kids in there tonight that we expect to help our offence and we aren’t getting much help right now. We’ve got a lot of spots open, it’s just a matter of who is going to fill them.”
Edmonton outshot Arizona 11-6 in the scoreless first period.
Oilers forward Jordan Eberle left the game 13 minutes in favouring his right side and did not return. No post-game update was available.
Ben Scrivens came in to replace Anders Nilsson in the Oilers net midway through the second. Nilsson made 11 saves in his half of the game while Scrivens made nine.
The Oilers broke the deadlock with four minutes to play in the second as Anton Slepyshev sent a backhand pass in front to Lander and he scored his third goal of the preseason on Coyotes starter Anders Lindback.
Edmonton made it 2-0 with 5.3 seconds left in the middle frame on the power play as Lander banked the rebound off a Nikita Nikitin point blast off of Lindback and into the net.
The Oilers got another power-play goal early in the third. Lander picked the top corner from the top of the circle for his natural hat trick goal with Slepyshev and Connor McDavid drawing assists.
Nugent-Hopkins made it 4-0 with five minutes left in the third, opting to shoot himself on a 2-on-1 opportunity.
The Oilers wrap up the home portion of their preseason schedule on Thursday against Vancouver. The Coyotes return home to face the San Jose Sharks on Friday.
The Oilers are close to their NHL lineup, with only notables like Teddy Purcell, Leon Draisaitl, Oscar Klefbom and Andrew Ference not playing on Tuesday. The Coyotes lineup was much more inexperienced after playing the night before in Vancouver.
Playing for Arizona was McDavid’s Erie Otters teammate from last season, Dylan Strome. The pair combined for 249 points last season in the Ontario Hockey League.
A special puck drop was done by Spider-Mabel, the six-year-old cancer patient who became an Internet sensation on Monday during her Children’s Wish quest to rescue Oilers captain Ference.