The first meeting between the Islanders and Oilers meant the focus Tuesday night was on Jordan Eberle and Ryan Strome, swapped for each other back in June.
Strome and the Oilers came to town on Monday and a few of Strome’s old Islanders teammates, led by John Tavares, took Strome to dinner in Manhattan.
“Some of those guys are my best buddies. It’s weird, you talk about hockey but you don’t have the same things to talk about,” Strome said after Edmonton’s morning skate in Barclays Center. “It’s a business, but you get to keep these friends forever.”
Strome and the Oilers limped into Brooklyn to start a four-game road trip at 4-8-1, second from the bottom of the Western Conference. The Oilers were a vogue Stanley Cup pick this season after the team reached the playoffs last spring for the first time since 2006 and made it to Game 7 of the second round.
Eberle, meanwhile, is enjoying life as an Islander after seven years with the Oilers.
“It’s a team that didn’t want you, so you want to bring your best, play your best and get your teammates going so they can try and help you out for a win,” he said. “I think that’s the biggest thing. Anytime you have friends on an old team, you compete a little bit harder.”
Strome has always looked up to Tavares since the Isles selected Strome fifth overall in 2011. The two Toronto natives train together for part of the offseason and still keep in touch.
“He’s the best pro I’ve ever seen,” Strome said. “Just great buddies. A guy like him, with so much going on in his life, great to see him still putting the puck in the net.”
And Eberle has his crew of friends with the Oilers, about whom he’s surprised to see struggling so far this season.
“With how the success happened last year, it’s a little bit shocking, I think,” he said. “I think it’s probably shocked the league, not just myself. But they’ve got a good group over there and they’ve got a great coaching staff. I’m sure they’ll figure it out.
“Lots of fond memories, no bad blood at all. I think like any player, there’s people that you want to compete against over there. That’s the best part of the game. You enjoy doing it.”
Hickey back in, Seidenberg sits
Thomas Hickey returned after being scratched the last three games, taking Dennis Seidenberg’s spot. Adam Pelech (upper body) sat out again as well, with Doug Weight saying he needed to see Pelech do a few more things in practice before green-lighting his return.