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PUCK DROP: 7:08 p.m. MST
OILERS vs. CANUCKS - GET THE SCOOP
AT THE MORNING SKATE
Edmonton, AB - Changes were expected, but only one is on the way.
Following a disappointing 3-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Friday, Associate Coach Ralph Krueger hinted that Darcy Hordichuk
, Theo Peckham
and Nikolai Khabibulin
could all be re-inserted. The club's sideline brute will remain, but the 39-year-old veteran will get the nod in goal.
will continue to get an opportunity, while the Oilers' hot fourth line of Ben Eager
, Anton Lander
and Lennart Petrell
will stay put. That's important, too, considering the team's desire to roll them all against the West's second-best squad.
"(Corey) Potter and (Theo) Peckham are both really close and they could in an emergency be put in, so that's going forward, but tonight we'll go with the same defencemen and the same forwards," Krueger said as he addressed the media this morning at Rexall Place.
"We might be making some changes (to the line combinations), but I'd rather reveal that after the warm-up.
"There's depth in the four lines right now that we're really comfortable with, so even if we move people around, we can play a four-line game against a team that plays really well with four lines," he added. "They had their fourth line over 10 minutes last night, so all of us know what that means in terms of how they use their bench."
It's all about matching up the right way. The Canucks are coming off a dominant 6-2 triumph over Toronto one night ago at Rogers Arena in Vancouver. In a back-to-back situation, they'll want to balance the players' ice time in an effort to keep heavy legs on the backburner.
It's been no secret that the Oilers have had success against the NHL's better teams this season but, as shown in Friday's loss to the barely-better Avalanche, stringing a similar effort together vs. the league's lesser-known has been a challenge.
"We've played well against the top teams in the league, and we've played well against Vancouver," said Taylor Hall
, who collected a goal and an assist against the Canucks when the teams last met on Jan. 24. "The last game we played in their building was very good before going into the All-Star break. With the exception of our last game, we've done a lot of good things in this last little bit.
"We need a lot of the same. We know how good they're playing (right now)."
"It's a little bit of a Canadian rivalry," added Ryan Jones
, who snapped a 22-game goalless drought on Friday. "You know what you're going to get with these guys. They're a dynamic team and we've got to be ready to battle or else they're going to take us out of the game right away. There might be a little fear or a lot of respect, but we always manage to play well against these guys."
As Jones explains, in order to get back on the winning track – as the orange and blue have dropped two straight on the club's current three-game homestand – shoring up a sloppy effort is Job 1.
"The effort is the thing that we need to change the most," he said. "It's a matter of coming out and matching the intensity of the team you're going to play against. If we do that and we get a good special teams effort, we'll give ourselves a good chance to win."
"It was the team play that was disappointing the most against Colorado," added Krueger, who didn't wan to single anyone out. "I feel that the combination of people right now gives us a depth of going through this game today eye-to-eye, four lines matching against each other."
Krueger, who's now 0-4 as an NHL head coach (he was 0-2 last year when Head Coach Tom Renney had to dismiss himself due to the death of his father), feels that the game's speed, often dictated by the opponent's unwavering skill, has had an effect on the Oilers' performances this season.
"I think it's the amount of time we have the puck," he said. "When we play teams that are equal to us at home, or teams that we feel we look eye-to-eye with like a Colorado, we have a lot of puck possession. Against Vancouver or the other top teams, we seem to move the puck quicker.
"That's what Vancouver automatically does to you. They give you no time, no space, you know that going into the game and you move it quicker. Somehow, it seems to play to our cards better."
If it works out, then the Oilers ought to have another solid outing against this team. While the home side has won only once against them this season in four tries, all have been close matchups that could have gone either way.
As has been stated all season, a quick start is a necessary component en route to victory.
"We need to have a real courageous game as far as our energy is concerned," Krueger said. "We didn't bring a lot of energy into the starts against Toronto and against Colorado, so the energy that you feel off our bench and into the game will be critical for our success."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
LAST 10 : Vancouver 8-0-2; Edmonton 4-6-0
Season Series: It's the fifth of six meetings between these two teams, with the home team prevailing in each of the first four. However, both Edmonton wins came in October, when the young Oilers were tearing through the League. Vancouver has won the most recent two, including a 3-2 shootout win on Jan. 24.
Big Story: The Northwest Division rivals are heading in opposite directions as the Canucks come to Rexall Place to begin a six-game trip. Vancouver is gaining on Detroit for the Western's top spot - the Canucks are two points back entering Sunday - while the Oilers have lost five of six and lead only Columbus in the overall standings.
Canucks: Vancouver is riding a 9-0-3 streak that has them second in the West and pressing Detroit for the top spot. That the Canucks have been skating well should be no surprise, but one thing about the recent run does come as a shock: Daniel and Henrik Sedin have had very little to do with it. The Sedins - usually vital conduits through which Vancouver's offense flows - entered Saturday's contest against Toronto with just 12 points between them over the past 12 games. Unfortunately for Toronto - and, perhaps, Edmonton - the Sedins got back in the scoring columns in a big way against the Leafs. Daniel Sedin had four points (one goal, three assists), while Henrik had four helpers of his own.
"We didn't play our best for a month, a month and a half, and that's something we had to change," Daniel said. "We played better the last few games and hadn't got the results. But tonight a few of them went in."
Oilers: As January turned to February, the Oilers stirred to life, going 4-0-1 over a five-game stretch that harked back to their early-season success. Since then, however, very little has gone their way. After getting a much-needed 4-3 overtime win in Ottawa last Saturday, the Oilers returned to Rexall Place for a three-game homestand and promptly lost the first two. The second was a 3-1 loss on Friday to Colorado, who jumped out to a 3-0 lead midway through the second period. Associate coach Ralph Kruger, at the helm while Tom Renney recovers from a concussion suffered when a puck struck him in the head earlier this month, called his team's lack of spark an anomaly. But losing has become all too typical of this Oilers team.
"We've had the odd night like this," Kruger said. "It's about finding ways to win the difficult games. We knew this was going to be a tough one as they are fighting for their lives. They played very well defensively and didn't give us much deep down in front of the net. They really cleaned that up.
Who's Hot : Alexandre Burrows was twice the recipient of a Sedin assist on Saturday, scoring two goals to give him three in the past two games.
Injury Report: Vancouver's Kevin Bieksa played - and scored - Saturday against Toronto, despite a sore foot. Dale Weise missed the game with a facial laceration and bruised right foot. Keith Ballard (sore neck/headaches), Andrew Ebbett (collarbone surgery) and Aaron Volpatti (shoulder surgery) are all on injured reserve. … For Edmonton, Corey Potter (groin) is questionable for Sunday. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will miss at least another week with a sprained shoulder. Theo Peckham is on injured reserve with a facial injury.
Stat Pack: Likely Edmonton starter Devan Dubnyk has a decent mark all-time against Vancouver, going 2-2 with a 2.17 goals-against average and .930 save percentage, but has lost his last two decisions while conceding eight goals. … If the Canucks score first, the numbers suggest it may be a long evening for Edmonton. Vancouver has more wins than anyone (32) when scoring first, while Edmonton is 27th in the League (6-19-3) when conceding the first goal.
Puck Drop: Despite their enviable streak, the Canucks needed overtime 10 times in the past 14 games before Saturday's blitz of the Leafs.
"It was nice to get a few goals and not play a game where you need to come back the last few minutes," Henrik Sedin said. "It got away from them."
-- Davis Harper, NHL.com