OILERS at STARS:
AT THE MORNING SKATE
After enjoying three days of rest, practice, and fitness training, the Oilers were back in game-day mode Tuesday morning in Dallas. The team took to the ice at 11:30am for a 40-minute morning skate.
Among the notable changes to Edmonton's line-up was the addition of defenceman Taylor Chorney (who was called up Monday to replace injured Jim Vandermeer) as well as rookie Taylor Hall moving from the left wing to centre.
The forward lines were as follows:
Penner - Hall - Hemsky
Paajarvi - Gagner - Omark
Reddox - Cogliano - Jones
Jacques - Fraser - Stortini
When asked about the decision to move Hall to centre, head coach Tom Renney said, "Why not?"
"The kid's played a lot of centre ice in junior and obviously with a Memorial Cup team, he's pretty important to them. So we'll have a look at it," he explained. "It's not like it's completely foreign to him, but certainly at the NHL level, it's a new challenge."
"It's going to be fun," Hall responded. "It's been a while since I played centre, but Tom feels that it could be a good line for our team and a good mix-up. I prepared a little bit for it yesterday in practice and today, just taking face-offs, and I feel pretty good."
Hall added playing centre won't be without its challenges.
"D zone is going to be a little bit different, just being down-low all the time and really having to communicate with your D-men. But we have a good D core on this team, and if we're communicating and we're talking down low, handling things the way they should be, we should be fine."
On the second line, Sam Gagner is also looking forward to having some fun with Swedes Magnus Paajarvi and Linus Omark.
"They're obviously really skilled and they have a lot of chemistry with each other," he said. "I obviously want to play a skilled game and move the puck around with those guys, but I think it's going to be important for us to get into battle areas and make sure that we're working hard off the puck in order to create our offensive changes. And if we have that mindset, hopefully things will go well."
On the blue line, Chorney skated with fellow call-up Jeff Petry. Renney wouldn't commit to that pairing, however.
"We'll see how that goes. There might be a little bit of synergy between the two of them to start. We'll see. Obviously there's six of them, so we'll put the best combinations we can together.
"At the same time, as we've said all along, it's about getting young guys on the ice as much as we possibly can, giving them the experience and us the education," he added.
FACING THE STARS
Renney said his club will have to sharp in some specific areas in order to come out with two points tonight in Dallas.
"I think our start will be important. This is a good team that plays awfully well really anywhere right now, obviously, but certainly in their own rink, they come at you pretty good. The corners are a little more shallow than they are in some rinks, so that forecheck is something we're going to have to move the puck past.
"I think beyond that we've got to make sure that we put pressure on them and force them to at least read the rush and come back to it in their end -- so get pucks in behind them, get pucks deep.
"And I think really a big part of this game, because of the manner in which they push the pace, is to out-change them," he continued. "We need really, really good changes here. They can take advantage of a poor change quickly, so at least we have to make sure that we push the pace off the bench."
Backstopping Edmonton's efforts will be Nikolai Khabibulin.
HEADED TO ALL-STAR
While the Stars are Edmonton's immediate challenge, for three players, a more light-hearted challenge is on the horizon.
Ales Hemsky, Hall, and Jordan Eberle were invited to attend NHL All Star Weekend in Carolina at the end of the month, and all players are looking forward to the experience.
"It's definitely an honour to go there and experience the All Star Game for the first time," Hemsky said. "I didn't really think about it, I didn't expect it, but it's a lot of good players in the league that could be there and they are not there maybe. It is what it is, so I will take it like that and have fun, just have fun and enjoy the time there."
Although Hall and Eberle will not play in the All Star Game, they will join the veterans and their fellow rookies in the Skills Competition.
"It's very exciting and something I'm looking forward to," Hall said. "I think me and Ebs talked about it a little bit, if we had the opportunity to go to Carolina ... It's going to be a very good experience for me."
Read the All Star announcement
STARS 3 - OILERS 2
Despite outshooting their opponents 41-20 and posting two quick third-period goals to erase a two-goal deficit, the Oilers couldn't keep the Stars from jumping back ahead, resulting in a 3-2 loss. Jean-Francois Jacques scored Edmonton's first goal, followed shortly thereafter by Ryan Jones, who led the game with six shots on net.
Author: Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Bob Stauffer