PREVIEW: Oilers, Avs hope to rebound from losses
|TV: Sportsnet West (HD)
RADIO: 630 CHED & Oilers Radio Network
PUCK DROP: 7:38 p.m. MT
AT THE MORNING SKATEEDMONTON - Following a 4-3 loss to the Calgary Flames Saturday night, Head Coach Ralph Krueger will be shaking things up prior to tonight's encounter with the division rival Colorado Avalanche.
Edmonton-born defenceman Mark Fistric will take a seat in the press box while Corey Potter will be reinserted alongside Ryan Whitney.
"It's the same situation we had a couple games ago," Krueger said. "Mark has given us what we expected and hoped for. He's strong and brings a physical presence -- but these games are coming quickly and we want to keep the players that are here, active. It's not against Mark that we made this change. It was more for Corey and keeping him involved, especially going into a week where we have four games."
"Sitting in the press box helps a little bit," Potter laughed. "You can see the whole ice and learn some things, but there's nothing quite like being out there."
In effort to increase scoring depth in the Bottom 6, Lennart Petrell will be bumped up to the third line, while Teemu Hartikainen will be added to the fourth alongside Eric Belanger and Magnus Paajarvi. Darcy Hordichuk, who played only 1:11 in Saturday's Battle of Alberta, will be scratched.
"I got a chance to play with these guys last year," Petrell said. "We have a pretty good connection and I think our games complement each other's pretty well. It's a promotion, but I can't change the way I play. I need to bring a physical game and be hard on the forecheck, as I always am. I'm looking forward to the opportunity."
"It's been good," the 28-year-old added of the penalty kill, where much of his 8:37 TOI average has been played. "We had that one bad period against San Jose, but other than that we've been solid."
Since giving up three power-play markers in that nightmarish, six-goal opening period vs. San Jose, the Oilers have been excellent on the PK. The Oilers have given up only one goal on 19 shorthanded situations (20-for-24, 83.3 percent - 11th-best in the NHL).
"As a unit, we take a lot of pride in being able to stop the other team's best shooters," Petrell said. "That's what it takes out there. You have to be willing to block shots and do everything you can to get in the lanes. That's what we've been doing since that night and it's been going well."
Still, Petrell wouldn't mind if the Oilers (the NHL's 23rd most penalized team) could lessen the shorthanded load.
"It wouldn't bother me at all," he laughed.
"We obviously need to stay out of the box, but some of the calls that are being made haven't been in the past," Whitney said. "Some have been pretty obscure and there have been others that I believe shouldn't have been called at all. Basically, we've got to do whatever it takes to stop taking so many penalties. Whether it's adapting our game to the way games are being called or playing a cleaner, simpler game, the onus is on us."
Tonight's matchup could be what the doctor ordered. The Avalanche come into tonight's game as the League's most penalized team. In four games this season, Colorado has been assessed 112 minutes in penalties (28.0 per game). And while the Oilers' PK has been talked about most, their power-play has been a game-changer all the same.
"It's been good, but we feel it can be even better (6-for-22, 27.3 percent)," said Whitney, who is the lone defenceman on the second unit with Sam Gagner, Ryan Smyth, Ales Hemsky and Nail Yakupov. "We have a (power-play) goal in every game and that's a positive when your special teams are rolling. Especially when it seems like every game is being decided by them."
Just as important, the Oilers need to get out of the gate quickly. In all four games so far, the club hasn't held a lead once and has usually trailed by one or more before the game was 10 minutes old.
"We've talked a lot in here about how to have a good start every game, but we haven't done it," Whitney said. "We've talked about how we can't turn pucks over, how we have to get them deep, but we haven't done it. I hope that we can do it tonight, where we get a good start and aren't down early. We need to play in their end and get a lead.
"The game is more fun when you're winning."
"We might pull the goal early on so we can get a lead," laughed Krueger, adding that puck management was team's "No. 1 issue" Saturday night at the Saddledome. "We're in a position where we should be looking eye-to-eye with other teams and not up at them."
Devan Dubnyk gets the start in goal looking to improve on his 2-2-0 record, 3.82 goals-against average and .884 save percentage.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com | Follow me on Twitter @ryandittrick
TV: RDS2, ALT, SNET-W
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
Season series: This is the first of five meetings for these Northwest Division rivals. The teams split their six season meetings last season, with Edmonton winning two of three matchups at Rexall Place.
Big story: Both Colorado and Edmonton have shown flashes of class thus far this season – both have wins over the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings, for example – but each enter Monday's game on the heels of a loss. Colorado was overwhelmed by San Jose in a 4-0 loss Saturday afternoon, and Edmonton's comeback bid fell short later that night in a 4-3 loss to Calgary in the Battle of Alberta.
Avalanche: In their first game of a four-game road swing, Colorado entered San Jose hoping to stick with the undefeated Sharks. And, at least in the full-strength situations, they did. But penalties cost Colorado dearly, as the Sharks' third-ranked power play converted three of six opportunities en route to a 4-0 victory. Colorado had outscored opponents 7-1 heading into the contest, and the shutout was the first in six games dating back to March 28 of last season.
Even with the offensive inconsistency and defensive indiscipline the Sharks exposed, Colorado will feel lucky to leave HP Pavilion with no more damage done. Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog was leveled late in the first period by a furious Brad Stuart hit. Landeskog skated off after the hit but returned to the game, and afterward called it a clean hit.
"I thought it was a hard hit. I haven't seen it but I think it was a clean hit or felt like a clean hit," Landeskog said. "It was hard, that much I could tell you. I was reaching for the puck and didn't brace myself enough, Stuart stepped up and that's the way hockey always is. It was a big one. I knew he was there, but I didn't think he was coming at me. Then he came and I saw him at the last second but not nearly early enough."
Oilers: On Saturday, Edmonton, losers of 15 of their last 18 against rival Calgary, looked poised to turn the tides against their Alberta rival. The Oilers had just come off a huge 2-1 overtime win over Los Angeles as the Flames sputtered to an 0-2-1 record to start the season. Calgary had something else in mind, however, as the Flames jumped out to an early 2-0 lead they never relinquished. The early deficit was nothing new for Edmonton – the Oilers are 2-2-0 despite not having led at any point this season, just over 248 minutes of game time -- but the youngsters in Edmonton weren't able to mount the comeback that won them points against Vancouver and LA.
"Getting behind all the time - especially on the road - you're going to have trouble consistently taking points out of that so we need to rectify that and work on that quickly," coach Ralph Krueger said.
Who's hot: For all the fanfare surrounding No. 1 overall pick Nail Yakupov, another Oilers rookie is making the bigger impression thus far. Defenseman Justin Schultz has two goals and three assists through four games, including a goal and assist against the Flames.
Injury report: For Edmonton, Ben Eager (concussion), Nikolai Khabibulin (hip) and Theo Peckham (hip) are all day-to-day while Ryan Jones (eye) and Andy Sutton (knee) are out indefinitely. … Colorado is healthy.
-- Davis Harper - NHL.com Staff Writer