THE TEAM TODAY: The Spoilers
Oilers, Head Coach Tom Renney look ahead to spoiling Flames' post-season hopes
THE SPOILERSEdmonton, AB - Following a 3-0 shutout win over the Columbus Blue Jackets 12 hours earlier, the Oilers returned to Rexall Place on Thursday morning for an abbreviated, 35-minute practice in preparation for Friday's Battle of Alberta.
A last-second (literally) win by the Colorado Avalanche on Wednesday distanced the Oilers' rivals from a post-season berth, as they currently sit in 10th, two points back of the Avs with another opponent in their path -- San Jose, who's ninth, has three games at hand and is tied with Calgary.
Oh yes, this one matters. ‘Every game matters,' so says the Flames' slogan. And the Oilers would love nothing more than to spoil their opponent's charge to the post-season.
"It actually is [an important game]," laughed Head Coach Tom Renney as he addressed the media around noon at Rexall Place. "It's good. This is good for us. If we can tap into what we did last time in Calgary, we're in good shape."
The Oilers, on the heels of Wednesday's win and on a high because of it, aren't too concerned about what their opponent brings. As the bench boss explains, it's a matter of continuing what was started last night and bringing it into each contest down the stretch.
"We're conscious of it, but we don't dwell on it," Renney said, noting that dousing the Flames' hopes would be nice, but isn't primary. "It's about how we're going to be tackle this league and how we're going to put ourselves in a position to be a really good hockey team for years on end, not just once in a while. We'll stay true to the course … regardless of who the opponent is and what they think of our approach (rebuilding). It is our approach and one we're going to stay true to.
"Going in with a reputation where the opponent says, 'Boy, we've got our hands full tonight.'"
The Flames sure did back on Feb. 21. The Oilers rolled into Scotiabank Saddledome and decimated the Flaming C by a 6-1 score on the back of a four-goal second period. It was a throttling, all right. And Edmonton loved every minute of it.
"We played hard," Renney said, recalling the team's emotional win that night. "I thought (Associate Coach) Ralph (Krueger) really had the guys ready to go, really ready to play and the guys just said uncle. ‘Let's go play.' Let's just do what we can do to play to our strengths. That's what we want to do every night. That's how we want to be every night; make the other team respond to what we're up to instead of being the team that has to react.
"It's certainly a step in the right direction of (becoming) what we want to be."
BACK IN THE BIGS
With winger Ben Eager out with back spasms, Teemu Hartikainen was recalled from the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons on Wednesday morning. No. 56 made it to Edmonton in time to skate in the pre-game warm-up vs. Columbus, but did not go.
"The last three weeks in the AHL have been pretty good for me," he said. "I've found my game and have been playing at a high level every night. It was good to get a little rest yesterday, I feel really good today and am ready to go tomorrow.
"I'm pretty excited to go out and give it my best."
Hartikainen has recorded 14 goals, 30 points and a +12 rating in 48 games with the Barons this season. The 21-year-old is skating on a line with Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Smyth, while Linus Omark was the odd-man out.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick