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OFF THE ICE

Notes and Quotes versus Anaheim

Thursday, 27.12.2007 / 4:40 PM / Off the Ice
By Marc Ciampa  - edmontonoilers.com
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Notes and Quotes versus Anaheim
Edmonton Oilers goalie Ales Hemsky, from the Czech Republic, scores the winning shootout goal over the Anaheim Ducks' Jean-Sebastien Giguere during their NHL hockey game Sunday, Oct. 28, 2007, in Anaheim, Calif. After ending in a 2-2 tie game, the Oilers won the shootout, 2-0. (AP Photo/Henry DiRocco)
Tonight marks the fourth meeting of the season between the Edmonton Oilers and defending Stanley Cup Champion Anaheim Ducks. So far, the Oilers have had their number winning each of the previous three meetings. “We’ve simplified our game and made sure we got the pucks in deep,” said Fernando Pisani when asked why the team has done so well against Anaheim this season.

Sam Gagner feels that it’s been a source of pride for the team to do so well against the defending champs.

“I think everybody’s contributed in the games we’ve played against them. We’ve had a lot of pride going into these games and played for our crest more than any other game. We play with a lot of emotion and we’re expecting a battle tonight,” he said.

Mathieu Garon gets the start once again tonight. In two prior starts against the Ducks, he has a 0.98 goals-against average and .965 save percentage.

“As a team we play very well against these guys. It’s always a big challenge when you play the Stanley Cup Champions,” said Garon.

Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish stated that the team needs two points tonight to avoid a fourth consecutive defeat, no matter who the opponent may be.

“We don’t want to get too distracted from that. We need to start playing more consistently,” said MacTavish. “I see a lot of the pieces are starting to fall into place. We just have to be more consistent night in and night out.”

RETURN OF NIEDERMAYER

Anaheim Ducks defenceman Scott Niedermayer looks for a teammate to pass to against the San Jose Sharks in the second period of an NHL hockey game in Anaheim, Calif., Sunday, Dec. 16, 2007. The former Ducks captain returned to the Ducks lineup after sitting out the beginning of the season contemplating retirement. (AP Photo/Mark Avery)
There will be several differences in the Ducks lineup tonight from the previous three meetings. Earlier this month, Doug Weight was acquired from St. Louis for Andy McDonald and team playoff MVP Scott Niedermayer returned.

“They’ve got Niedermayer on the back end now so that will obviously give them some boost back there,” said Pisani. “But our game plan is not going to change. We need to get the pucks in deep, establish our forecheck early and get on them.”

Shawn Horcoff expects to see Niedermayer take the ice in close to top form.

“With Niedermayer, it doesn’t matter how much time he takes off. He’s obviously an elite defenceman in the game,” he said. “He’s so effective out there. There’s not many situations he doesn’t play in.”

Horcoff stressed that the team needs to be prepared to face such an elite-level defensive talent.

“It’s going to be another element we’re going to need to be ready tonight.”

Dustin Penner remembers how important Niedermayer was to the Ducks’ success last season.

“Last year we hardly spent any time in our D zone. It’s tough when you spend so much time in your own end,” he said.

MacTavish had high praise for the Ducks defenceman and former captain.

“The difference between good players and great players, the great players make other players better. He has that ability. Beauchemin’s going to be a better player with him because his workload is going to be reduced. Great players have an ability to hide other peoples’ weakness. He’s not only going to help them, he’s going to help everybody around him.

“There’s probably seven or eight players in the last 10 years that you could build 15 years around and he’s one of them. Stevens, Bourque, Yzerman, Lidstrom, Sundin, those types of players.

“So he’s good.”

GAGNER TAKES A TURN ON THE TOP LINE

Edmonton Oilers' forward Sam Gagner, left, celebrates his goal with teammate Shawn Horcoff during first-period NHL hockey action against the Calgary Flames in Calgary, Canada, Saturday, Oct. 20, 2007. (AP Photo/Jeff McIntosh,The Canadian Press)
With Ales Hemsky out of the lineup tonight, Sam Gagner moves from the centre position on the second line to the right side on line one with Dustin Penner and Shawn Horcoff.

“Sam has played on that line before. The last game we played Anaheim where Hemmer was out both in Anaheim and Los Angeles on back-to-back nights we put Sam in that position. He did very well,” noted MacTavish. “He’s a guy that can make plays around the boards and that’s important when you’re playing the wing. He can give Horc the puck on the fly a lot and he can make plays. We’re hoping we get the same result tonight as we did in both Anaheim and L.A.”

Shawn Horcoff knows that his line will have to make adjustments without a player like Hemsky on the wing but he’s prepared.

“We’ll probably hold the puck a little bit more. Hemmer commands the puck a lot and with his speed and you want to give it to him in the neutral zone,” Horcoff began. “With Gags, he’s got all those elements but he’s still young. He’s a good playmaker and if you give the kid time he’s going to make good plays.”

He made a point of saying that the team will not be making wholesale changes, simply small adjustments.

“We’re not going to really change our game too much but we want to support ourselves closer in the offensive zone and try to get some offence off the cycle.”

Dustin Penner said everyone needs to step up their game, not just Gagner.

“You can’t replace a guy like Ales Hemsky with one player. He’s a unique individual. Sam is going to step in and change the dynamic of the line but we’ll just have to form a new chemistry,” he said.

The success Gagner had on this line earlier this season should make for a smoother transition.

“I played with these two guys before throughout the year. I know what they’re all about. They’re both such great players which makes it a little easier for you,” Gagner stated. “Horcoff is as reliable as they come. He does all the little things very well and can put the puck in the net, too.”

Penner is one of the strongest guys in the league and wins battles in the corner. I just need to be there to help support him and try to be good on the cycle. Hopefully we can develop some chemistry.”

Gagner echoed Penner’s statements that a lot of players will need to step up to replace Hemsky’s offence.

“He’s a big part of our offence and guys have to step up and produce in his absence. I think everybody’s looking to create more offence.”

As for the power play, Gagner will remain with Nilsson and Cogliano on the second unit.

MOREAU EYES SATURDAY

Ethan Moreau hammers Carolina Hurricanes captain Rod BrindAmour into the boards during the 2006 Stanley Cup Final.
For the first time in a long while, Ethan Moreau has a date circled on the calendar – he will play Saturday in Minnesota barring any setbacks.
  • RELATED VIDEO: Moreau Injury Update 700K 
“Not tonight, I’m going to play in Minny. I just need a couple of days to get into more game-like situations,” said the Oilers captain. “I don’t want to just ease my way back into the lineup. I want to be a factor right away.”

With Raffi Torres gone for the foreseeable future, Moreau adds a considerable amount of grit and experience to the Oilers lineup. This morning, he really put his ankle to the test at the morning skate.

“I’ve only really had one full practice and two morning skates where I’ve really skated hard. I’ll skate hard tomorrow and then off to Minny,” he said. “It doesn’t hurt now and I’ve skated really hard. I don’t think it’s going to be a big problem but it remains to be seen when we test it in game situations.”

Including his shoulder injury last year, Moreau has been out 113 games. To put that into perspective, the last time Moreau played an NHL regular season game, Zack Stortini, Sam Gagner, Tom Gilbert and Andrew Cogliano had never played in the NHL and Gagner just turned 17. Also, Ladislav Smid, Patrick Thoresen and Kyle Brodziak had all played 10 career NHL games or less and Penner had five career NHL goals.

“We’re very happy to have him back,” said MacTavish. “He’s going to give us a big lift but we wanted to make sure he got a couple more practices in so he was capable when he got in – in all likelihood Saturday against Minnesota.”
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