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PUCK DROP: 7:38 p.m. MDT
OILERS vs. DUCKS - GET THE SCOOP
AT THE MORNING SKATE
**Due to the harsh weather conditions, the Oilers opted not to hold a morning skate and/or media availability. Oilers interviews were conducted at yesterday's practice, while Ducks interviews were collected at Thursday's morning skate.**
Edmonton, AB - Tonight could be an historic evening at Rexall Place -- and no, not in regards to the weather.
And no, it's not because it's the Oilers' final home game of the 2011-12 season, but that too is a momentous (and saddening) occasion in itself.
Teemu Selanne, 41, has played in all of the Ducks' 80 games this season, leading them in points with 66 (26 goals), six ahead of sniper Corey Perry. In a career that began in 1992 with the Winnipeg Jets -- a phenomenal rookie campaign in which he tallied 76 goals and 132 points -- his point-per-game pace has carried him to over 1400 points in illustrious, 19-year career.
With only two games remaining in Anaheim's season, Thursday's tilt could be the Finnish Flash's last in Oil Country. Just as he's done with almost every team in the league, Selanne has feasted on the Oilers; 48 goals and 90 points have been recorded in 76 career games against the orange and blue, all the while maintaining that gentlemanly persona that's made the Helsinki native such a loved and highly-respected counterpart on and off the ice.
Retirement has long been discussed (even last season), but a one-year deal kept him around for another ride. Does he have another grueling off-season and full 82-game grind in his ageless tank?
"You hope he doesn't want to pack it in, but you certainly understand if he does," offered Oilers Head Coach Tom Renney as he addressed the media post-practice Wednesday at Rexall Place. "He's so good for the game, he's such an easy (going) guy, he loves to play, he brings passion to the game. He's one of those guys when you're coaching, you watch his little idiosyncrasies on the ice and how he interacts with your team -- his opponent -- his teammates, the referees, the whole thing.
"He's so good for the game, but at some point in time you move over and let young guys come in and do their thing. He's had a wonderful career; most of us have had the opportunity to witness that. Should he want to continue it, I wouldn't be surprised to see him get 30 goals next year and keep doing it. The guy skates like the wind and he could play until he's 45. A guy like (Jaromir) Jagr could, too, because he's so big and strong, and takes good care of his body.
"Teemu does, too, and he can skate," Renney added. "If you can skate and you've got such great instincts as he does, you can play a long time."
As a 19-year-old rookie, Ducks winger Devante Smith-Pelly wasn't even born while Selanne was putting up 100-point seasons in the NHL; the Finn's leadership has gone well beyond his contribution to a scoresheet. When you combined them both, a miraculous, sure-to-be Hall of Fame career is established.
"He's an amazing guy and an amazing player," Smith-Pelly said of Selanne. "He's always willing to help the younger guys out, he's all about everybody else. It's amazing to get a chance to play with him and I wouldn't mind if he came back to play a couple more seasons."
"He brings a lot of passion to the game, he loves the game," added ex-Oiler Andrew Cogliano. "He's fun to be around. He means a lot to this team and this organization, and he's a legend and it's really an honour to play with him."
While the Oilers (32-39-9, 73 points) and Ducks (33-35-12, 78 points) have both endured tough seasons, each locker room is ripe with pride as the clubs look to end their seasons on a strong note.
"We want to win," said Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff
, who's notched 13 goals and 34 points this season, along with a -22 rating. "We want to come out and have a good showing. We still have an opportunity to be above .500 at home. We're proud here, we owe our crowd a lot.
"They've stuck with us and really showed their faith in the players and organization these last three seasons, so we really want to show them what they have to look forward to next year."
Renney agreed, adding that the fans' support means everything to a team with budding skill and with a reputation on the rise.
"We want to have a good game," he explained. "If you don't want to go out there and embrace the team concept and have your fans leave the building with a good feeling about what lies in store for them, then you better show up (Thursday) night.
"We have to play the game with the requisite passion and emotion, of course, and this is our home rink. Let's make sure that we're there from that point of view, and ultimately that we play the game properly. We think we've given our fans, as much as it's been a tough year, something to look forward to. We want to make sure that, by our work tomorrow night, it certainly leaves with them a good taste in their mouth going into the offseason."
As far as the Ducks are concerned, there's an added bonus that includes revenge. Last week at the Honda Center, Devan Dubnyk
stopped 32 shots en route to a hard-fought 2-1 win over the Ducks in their home rink.
"That's the key," Cogliano said of solving the orange and blue's goaltender. "Ebby (Jordan Eberle
) and (Ryan) Nugent-Hopkins, Gags (Sam Gagner
) -- there's a lot of skill over there. That's how you beat a team like that. You play good, stingy defence against them."
"They're highly-skilled guys," Smith-Pelly added. "If you're not physical or in their face, they're going to hurt you. I don't really like to focus on two guys, but I do know when I'm on the ice with them. It will be a good battle."
While Devan Dubnyk
is expected to get the start for the Oilers, ex-Oiler Jeff Deslauriers will get the nod between the pipes for the Ducks.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
LAST 10: Anaheim 4-5-1; Edmonton 5-3-2
Season Series: It's the last of four meetings this season, and the second in five days. The Ducks won the first two before Edmonton scored a pair of quick goals and held on for a 2-1 win on Sunday in Anaheim.
Big Story: The Oilers try to give the home folks some pleasant memories to take into the summer as they host the Ducks in their last game of the season at Rexall Place.
Ducks: Anaheim is headed for its worst season since 2003-04, and Tuesday night's 5-4 shootout loss at Vancouver was just another disappointment in a season full of them. The Ducks led 1-0, 2-1 and 4-2, only to allow the Canucks to pull even each time and win the shootout.
"We had a chance to win until the shootout," said goalie Jonas Hiller, who was beaten on all three attempts. "Their moves were better than ours went."
Oilers: A 2-0 loss at Los Angeles on Monday and a day off on Tuesday led to a body-thumping practice on Wednesday that included hitting, chirping and a couple of two-handers.
Coach Tom Renney liked what he saw.
"It was OK," Renney said. "They're trying to work hard and do the right things, and every once in a while a reminder here and there from a coaching perspective. I didn't see anything extraordinary."
Who's Hot: If 41-year-old Teemu Selanne is going to hang up his skates after the season, it's not because he can't play. Selanne has points in his last two games and leads the Ducks with 66. … Another Teemu, Edmonton's Teemu Hartikainen, had both goals against the Ducks. That's half of the Oilers' offensive production in the last four games.
Injury Report: The Ducks are missing defenseman Nate Guenin (face), and have been without goaltender Dan Ellis (groin) since January. … Edmonton expects to have defenseman Jeff Petry back; he skipped the two-game trip to Southern California after being hit in the face last Friday. Forward Taylor Hall (shoulder surgery) is gone until the fall. The Oilers list Theo Peckham and Corey Potter (concussions) and defenseman Ladislav Smid (neck) as day-to-day.
Stat Pack: The Oilers have taken just 14, 15 and 19 shots on goal in their last three games. … Selanne has seven goals and 14 points during a nine-game points streak against the Oilers. … Hiller has set an Anaheim franchise record by playing in 72 of the Ducks' 80 games.
Puck Drop: There aren't many goals for a team that was expected to make the playoffs and didn't, but the Ducks would like to finish their season with wins in Edmonton and Calgary to give them a break-even record of 35-35-12. That might not sound like much, but it would be an achievement for a team that started the season by going 10-22-6.
"I can find different things to motivate teams and players," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau told the team's website.
"It's not hard to keep them focused if you keep your finger on the pulse of the pressure-type thing. "But if the coaches let up, then it's really easy for the players to let up. They're like your kids. If you're not on top of your kids all the time, no matter what the occasion, they're going to find ways to goof off. So you have to stay on top of them, right to the bell."
-- John Kreiser, NHL.com