GAME DAY: Gagner ties team record, notches 8 points in 8-4 win
OILERS 8 - BLACKHAWKS 4Sam Gagner made it happen. Everything. The 22-year-old collected four goals and eight points, tying a team record set in the 80s when Wayne Gretzky (Mar. 19, 1983 and Jan. 4, 1984) and Paul Coffey (Mar. 14, 1986) made magic in orange and blue. As such, he was announced as the game's first, second and third star in a thrilling 8-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night at Rexall Place.
Just another day's work.
AT THE MORNING SKATEEdmonton, AB - In setting a 2-1-0 record in this year's season-series with Chicago, scoring 16 goals and allowing only 11, the Oilers bring some extra swagger into tonight's game with the Blackhawks.
And, having procured points in its last three, Edmonton is eager to continue the squad's hot hand en route to a second consecutive victory; it hasn't happened since Nov. 22 (Nashville) and 25 (Minnesota), too.
"I'm not sure," said Theo Peckham, who couldn't quite pen a reason for the Oilers' success against good teams this season. "Personally, I try to be as good as I can be every night. Especially for a guy like me that plays the game that I do, I need to be steady, night-in and night-out. I try to be the same and be at that level every game; team-wise, I couldn't tell you.
"I think we understand that, in order to play with this team, we have to be at our best, or else it's going to go 9-2 the other way."
That 9-2 thumping back on Nov. 19 is still an open wound in the Blackhawks' minds. Patrick Kane, among others, has been especially vocal in vowing revenge for the embarrassment and the fans' unrelenting 'we want 10!' taunt.
"We all understand that, having a game like that, you're going to have to answer the bell," said an understandable Peckham. "Especially being a guy that's dropped the gloves a couple times, usually when you beat a guy pretty bad, he's going to come knocking the next time looking to settle the score. It's the same thing and we'll have to be ready for it."
"I don't think past results have anything to do with what's got to happen tonight," added Head Coach Tom Renney. "If that's what motivates [Chicago], that's great. They're a good team and they know it. We have to be as good as we can possibly be to beat these guys and that's the end-game right there."
While it won't change the Oilers' attitude toward their skilled opponent, they know they'll have to be at their best in order to capture the points and ride momentum's hot wave. Peckham agrees that the orange and blue's locker room is "proud" of the last couple games, but also that there's a long way to go.
"Any chance you get to play a game in the NHL, it's a dream come true," No. 24 said. "It's not necessarily salvaging the season, but our fans pay a lot of money to come to these games and they want to come watch us work as hard as we can. We want to give them a reason to want to come and keep coming to our games down the stretch. We want to entertain them and give them something to cheer about."
NUGENT-HOPKINS, BARKER CLOSE
"In essence he could go," Renney said of Barker's timeline.
But he won't. Saturday is more likely, as the Oilers' bench boss said the team will roll with the same lineup that propelled the team to a 3-2 win on Tuesday over the Colorado Avalanche.
In RNH's case: "He's real close. I'd be surprised if he wasn't ready for Saturday." Renney wants to make sure his rookie superstar has the proper amount of time to heal, citing the organization's long-term stability as as priority No. 1.
Tom Gilbert was the lone soldier still sporting a non-contact sweater in yesterday's practice, so he's a little further away; close, too, however. In any case, the addition of all three (whenever it happens), means the Oilers will have to make some decisions, particularly on the blueline, about who stays in and who gets the bird's eye, less-than-desired press box view.
"I think our [team's] culture is such that it's an honest group," Renney said. "The way we communicate with [the players] is right up the middle and no BS. They clearly understand that there are some healthy people getting ready to come back into the lineup. Those are the decisions that will be made based on how you execute and your contribution to team needs. Whether that changes the dynamic or not, I'm not sure, but it will certainly test the culture."
One player who's guaranteed to get the call, assuming he maintains his stellar play in upholding Renney's ‘win and you're in' mantra, Devan Dubnyk will once again get the start in goal tonight. The 25-year-old has amassed an 8-11-1 record, 2.83 goals-against average and .911 save percentage in 20 starts this season.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick