GAME DAY: Leafs edge Oilers in OT, 4-3
LEAFS 4 - OILERS 3 (OT)The Oilers came back from 2-0 and 3-2 deficits to tie the game late on a Jordan Eberle marker, but Toronto's Tim Connolly halted the home side's comeback march, scoring 1:39 into overtime to secure a 4-3 Leafs win Wednesday night at Rexall Place.
AT THE MORNING SKATEEdmonton, AB - Intentions can be misconstrued, and things can change as game time approaches. The Oilers didn't want to get into a track meet last week in Toronto, but it happened in a high-speed 6-3 loss at Air Canada Centre.
As the orange and blue prepare to engage in a rematch with the Centre of the Universe's beloved club, the Oilers insist they're better prepared this time around.
"We don't want to get into a track meet," argued Jeff Petry, who collected a goal and an assist in last week's encounter. "[Toronto is] quick up front, but I think we can counter their attack with some better preparation on our end. We need to get the puck up to our forwards equally as quick, chip it in and work their D down low.
"We showed it last time that when we do that, we can get a cycle going and hem them in their own end. Otherwise, and we saw this last week, too, as soon as their D get the puck, their forwards are bursting up ice and are looking to catch us sleeping. We've got to be cautious of that, too."
Corey Potter, who's missed the last two practices and was absent again today at the team's 10:30am morning skate, will miss tonight's game with a groin injury. As such, Petry will be paired with the club's leading shot-blocker, Ladislav Smid.
"He's (Potter) been playing well 5-on-5 and on the power-play," Petry explained. "It's something that I think we have the depth where we can get some guys in there and fill a spot, but he's certainly a player that's going to be missed."
"It's the way the backend has gone this year," added Tom Gilbert, noting the Oilers' 192 man-games lost and more on the way with the elimination of Potter. No. 77 will be paired with Ryan Whitney tonight.
Cam Barker will return to the lineup and will be paired with Andy Sutton. Theo Peckham was activated today, but will sit out.
"Guys have been stepping up all season," he added. "For me, I've played with Whitney before and a couple years ago we had a really good string of about 20 or so games together. We're really comfortable with each other, so it's not like it's going to be something new. We want to provide a little more offence than we've been giving, so that's something we're going to be working toward, too."
Gilbert, who's notched three assists in seven career games vs. Toronto, was a -2 in Monday's game. Even so, he collected a team-high seven hits and is eagerly anticipating tonight's rematch.
"Regardless of what they bring, we need to be good," he said. "We know they're quick, they're a good transition team. They played last night (5-1 loss to Calgary) and had a tough game, so our start is going to be really important for us. It's got to be hard. It's got to be pucks deep. We've got to make sure that we're doing everything right, right away."
Head Coach Tom Renney was absent again today. Still feeling the effects of post-concussion syndrome after being struck in the head with an errant puck during last Monday's morning skate, Associate Coach Ralph Krueger ran practice and addressed the media this morning.
It's expected that Renney will be available to coach tonight, but it's quite literally a game-time decision.
"It's important to understand the game [Toronto] wants to play and respect that game," Krueger explained. "With (Phil) Kessel, (Mikhail) Grabovski, (Matthew) Lombardi and (John-Michael) Liles, there's so much speed coming at you that you need to be well-positioned and you have to understand their transition speed and also their puck-movement in that north-south direction.
"We need to give them less space and time than we did in Toronto," he added. "That will be critical for us to win tonight."
The loss last week was the opener to the club's three-game road trip, in which they collected a pair of losses before ended it on a high with a 4-3 overtime win in Ottawa on Hockey Day in Canada.
Buying back into the system has been an important point to consider.
"That's always the biggest thing," Gilbert said. "When you've got one guy going off in their own direction and doing their own thing, it hurts the team. There are always tough patches throughout a game, but when you work as a team and stick to your game plan as a group, we should be alright. That's what we hope to continue tonight."
"We went through that stretch where we proved that we couldn't do it on our own," Petry added. "We've bought into the system a little more lately, we're keeping things simple and it's certainly had a good impact on our game."
Following a 39-save outing in which he snapped a personal eight-game winless skid, Nikolai Khabibulin will return to the pipes to make his third straight start and help the Oilers improve on their four-game home winning streak.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick