THE TEAM TODAY

THE TEAM TODAY: Michigan Arrival

Oilers arrive in Detroit, look ahead to Red Wings, comment on MSU & more

Tuesday, 07.02.2012 / 3:30 PM / The Team Today
By Ryan Dittrick  - edmontonoilers.com
   TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 7

MICHIGAN ARRIVAL

Detroit, MI - Following a 6-3 loss in Toronto one night ago, the Oilers hopped on the team's charter and darted to the Motor City, arriving at 12:30am ET, and having heads hit their pillows an hour later in downtown Detroit.

Although the orange and blue's loss in yesterday's East-West showdown snapped a three-game winning streak, the Oilers kept with the home side until the bitter end, battling hard and maintaining the team's never-quit attitude.

"I thought we started very well," said Ladislav Smid, whose 20:03 TOI was highlighted with a team-best +3 rating. "We got the lead early, but we had a couple turnovers that resulted in their goals. I don't know what happened [in the second period]; too many turnovers, we weren't really good with the puck. [Toronto] used that against us. It was a tough one. I really thought we could have won the game."

"We didn't show the respect that we've shown in playing the top clubs in the West," added Associate Coach Ralph Krueger, who was still manning the bench as Head Coach Tom Renney recovers from being struck with a puck during yesterday's morning skate at Air Canada Centre. "We had such a good run playing against teams that we really respected, and it looked almost like we thought we had an equal here.

"We had a lack in commitment to the man coming into the zone. We weren't heavy enough on the puck. We weren't strong and decisive enough and on top of that, we had turnovers that we can't be happy with. There are lots of things to learn from, but the group worked really hard in the skate today. You can see that they want to move forward and have a better game in Detroit, and I'm certain we'll have it."

While Krueger noted that his team needed to "purge" the 6-3 loss, the Oilers are getting an opportunity to, once again, go up against a team that they've had (very) recent success against.

"We're going to build on what we did well against Detroit (on Saturday in a 5-4 shootout win)," he said. "We'll be looking at that in the morning and trying to copy-paste the habits that made us strong in that game. It was one of the better games for us this season. [Detroit has] the best home record in the National Hockey League, so we need to bring our 'A' game.

"The reaction and anger is in the group, and that will make us stronger against Detroit."

MSU CONNECTION

While Jordan Eberle scored a pair in the opening period, his standout performance was rivaled by a young rearguard's exceptional play. In logging a team-high 22:59 TOI, Jeff Petry collected a goal and an assist, along with three blocked shots, three takeaways and three hits, capping an enormous evening in which the 24-year-old made a statement.

"He's improved so much," Smid said of his partner. "He's got so much confidence and I really enjoy playing with him. He's really good defensively, but at the same time, he's got that smooth-skating ability where he can really join the offence. He's got that upside in him and he proved that last night."

Petry, 6'3" and 196 pounds, is thrilled to have established his name as a legitimate, up-and-coming blueliner in the NHL; especially now, considering No. 58 is getting the opportunity to come back to the place where his career began.

From 2007 to 2010, Petry played three full seasons in the CCHA with the Michigan State University Spartans in nearby Lansing, MI. In 38 games to stamp his collegiate career, he gathered four goals and 29 points, helping to blossom a pro pedigree and become what he is today.

"It was great to take the college route," Petry explained. "I had a great three years at Michigan State, and I still have a lot of ties here; getting to come back and play here and play in front of the home crowd is nice, and it's always good to beat these guys."

"Jeff really played well, especially with the plays he made; a beautiful one-touch with Ebs (Jordan Eberle) on the second goal," Krueger said. "He's maturing so much. When you think about the fact that he began the year in the American League and wasn't even in our Top 7, we find it difficult to imagine not having him in the lineup right now. He's earned that by being a committed defensive player, but also starting to add nicely to the offence."

Along with Petry, Shawn Horcoff and Corey Potter are also MSU alumni. While the latter's path to the bigs was more lengthy and involved, he capped his NCAA endeavour with a similar, point-loaded campaign. The 28-year-old rookie is struggling of late and could potentially be scratched tomorrow vs. Detroit, but he's still excited to get the opportunity to come back as an NHLer.

"It's always fun coming back to Michigan," he said. "I played some pretty fun games here at the Joe (Louis Arena) with Michigan State. I've played with a lot of players around the league and there's a couple on Detroit that have played here, too. It's a fun experience to come back here and I'll have a bunch of friends and family in tonight, so it'll be nice to have them come and enjoy the game."

OUT & UP FROM THE FARM

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins will have to take a seat on the IR once more. The 18-year-old rookie was hit by Toronto's Mike Brown during second period action last night, which has caused another ailment to the young star's shoulder. He'll be out for 7-10 days.

"It's the same area, it's the same shoulder, but it's a new thing on top," he said, somberly, as he addressed the media at Joe Louis Arena this morning. "We were both going for the puck, we collided and hit shoulder-on-shoulder. As soon as I got hit, my shoulder dropped and I knew something was wrong.

"It can be frustrating, but I'm going to try and stay positive through all of this right now."

As a result and with the Oilers' need to balance the lineup with another creative weapon, Magnus Paajarvi has been recalled from the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons.

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"You miss a player like [Nugent-Hopkins], but it's another opportunity for Magnus," Krueger said. "He seemed more confident coming up last time, so hopefully it's another level that he brings this time.

"It's disappointing," he added. "[Nugent-Hopkins is] a player who bring us a dimension that we don't have, which makes every great player special. He does something nobody else does."

YOU SHOULD KNOW: Head Coach Tom Renney did participate in the Oilers' morning meeting at the team's hotel. He did not attend practice, but is simply taking the precautionary (and extra rest) route as he recovers from being hit in the head by an errant puck yesterday in Toronto. 

-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick



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