PREVIEW: Oilers vs. Stars
Oilers return home to face Shawn Horcoff and the Dallas Stars
|TV: TSN (HD)
RADIO: 630 CHED & Oilers Radio Network
PUCK DROP: 8:15 p.m. MT
INSIDE THE OILERSLines this morning, Dubnyk starts, Yakupov talks ice time, Justin Schultz injury update and more.
>> READ MORE IN THE INSIDE THE OILERS BLOG
The Edmonton Oilers host the Stars for their first of three against the visitors from Dallas this season. The team is also looking to fix their poor start in their home building. They are 1-5-0 on home ice this season and are coming off of two shutouts, their most recent being a 5-0 loss to Detroit on November 2.
AT THE MORNING SKATE
The team is looking to get the fans behind them early with a quick offensive start.
"Obviously the fans, they show their emotions," said Oilers forward David Perron. "That's the only way they can do it when it's not going the way they'd like and not going the way we want either. I think for the most part, everyone has been frustrated with the results we've had so far. It'd be huge, after the first period, to be up by two or three."
"You want to utilize the fans and get them on our side and get them pumping," said Ryan Smyth. "They're a factor, they have been a factor in the past and we want to utilize that and hopefully we can get off to the right fit early."
SCHULTZ OUT, POTTER IN
The Oilers young budding star defenceman Justin Schultz has been working his way back from groin and rib injuries. There hasn't been a stated timeline for his return, but his head coach says he's close.
"Closer," said Eakins. "But not good enough yet."
The injury to Schultz has resulted in some defensive shuffling between the Oilers and their AHL affiliate in Oklahoma City. Yesterday, the team recalled Corey Potter from OKC and he figures to play his first game of the season for Edmonton.
"We just want him to come in and defend and get comfortable in his game," said Eakins. "He's the one guy that comes to mind, that hasn't had a chance here at all. He got hurt before training camp even begun and then he went down (to OKC) and played a couple of games but he was still not quite ready to get in the lineup. He's got some games under his belt, I had a little chat with him and he's comfortable. He has no issues with his previous injury."
"I'm just going to keep it simple and concentrate on the 'D-Zone'," said Potter. "I think that's where the biggest let down up here has been, in the 'D-Zone'. I'm just going to try to play hard and physical back there."
Tonight will mark the return of a former Oilers captain as Shawn Horcoff will play his first game against his former team since being traded to the Stars in July.
"There's one thing you can control as a player, your work ethic and he did that," said Horcoff's former teammate Ryan Smyth. "He showed that consistently, in my opinion. He earned everything he got in the game today. He was a good leader, he was vocal in the locker room and he led by example."
Horcoff played 796 regular season games for the Oilers and scored 162 goals and added 285 assists over the course of his career from 2000-2013. Tonight will be an emotional experience for the returning centre.
"When the schedule first came out, I took a look at it early to look when I'd be back in Edmonton," said Horcoff. "Then, I didn't think about it too much. But in the last week, I've been getting more questions about it and it's going to be emotional for sure tonight.
"I'll be nervous for it, probably the most nervous I've been for a game in a while. At the same time, I'm looking forward to it. It's kind of weird but I've made some great friends here, as a lot of family here and the organization, in a lot of ways, is like a family to me… It's all I really know."
Horcoff has five points (2-3-5) in 17 games for the Stars.
LARSEN FACING FORMER TEAM
In the Horcoff trade, the Oilers received defenceman Philip Larsen and the former Dallas blue liner says he's excited to play tonight.
"It's going to be special to play the club that drafted you and gave you a chance to play in the NHL," said Larsen. "I'm playing old teammates too, so it's going to be a fun night."
Larsen is not focused on 'showing up' his former team or proving anything special to the Oilers, he just wants to have a good game as he always hopes to do.
"To be honest, I haven't really thought about that," he said. "I want to play good every game. I think everybody wants to. I'm just trying to play my game, have fun and enjoy it and contribute where I can help. Of course, I want to have a good game but I think the whole team wants to have a good game. We want to win too. We just have to work hard and stay focused."
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
STARS (8-7-2) vs. OILERS (4-13-2)
TV: TSN, FS-SW
Last 10: Dallas 5-3-2; Edmonton 2-7-1
Season series: The Dallas Stars and Edmonton Oilers play the first of three games in 2013-14. Although the Oilers ended an 0-5-1 skid against the Stars with a 5-1 win in Dallas on Feb. 28, they've been outscored 13-5 in going 0-3-1 in their past four at Rexall Place.
Big story: Edmonton is looking to avoid being shut out at home for the third straight game, which would be a franchise first. The Oilers are 1-5-0 at home this season and have been outscored 17-2 in their past four home games. They return to Edmonton for the first time since hearing loud boos after a 5-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 2.
"If we're going to play like that, that's what you're going to get," coach Dallas Eakins told the team's website. "It's pro sports. The fans are allowed to express their displeasure and it's the only way they can.
"We have a lot of players frustrated right now. We have an organization frustrated with our results. We all want better."
Stars: Ray Whitney (lower body) is out, so the Stars juggled their lines at practice Tuesday. Ryan Garbutt took Whitney's spot with center Vernon Fiddler and Rich Peverley. Antoine Roussel was shifted to left wing with center Cody Eakin and right wing Alex Chiasson. Rookie Valeri Nichushkin remained on the top line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.
"We’ve looked at a couple of different combinations," Stars coach Lindy Ruff told reporters. "We tried something [Monday] and we tried something [Tuesday]. We’ll make a decision [Wednesday]."
Whatever sticks, Ruff is hoping to see big improvement from a power play that's 2-for-29 in the past nine games, including 0-for-6 in a 5-2 loss Saturday to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Oilers: Among the myriad of issues in Edmonton is the state of the goaltending. Devan Dubnyk, Jason LaBarbera and Richard Bachman have combined to allow a League-worst 3.95 goals per game. Forced to make a move, Edmonton signed veteran Ilya Bryzgalov and sent him to the Oklahoma City Barons of the American Hockey League in preparation for a return to the NHL.
"It's a good opportunity for me to play a few games, get some good practice with good players to get some shots and get myself in good shape," Bryzgalov said.
Who's hot: Benn has two goals and an assist in his past three games and eight points in seven career games in Edmonton. The Stars captain also has points in four of his past five and shares the team lead with 16 points. Goalie Kari Lehtonen is 5-1-0 with a 2.24 goals-against average on the road and owns a 1.24 GAA during a four-game win streak at Edmonton. … Oilers right wing Taylor Hall has two goals and two assists in three games since returning from a knee injury.
Injury report: Whitney was placed on IR retroactive to Nov. 9 and will miss at least the first two games of the Stars' three-game road trip. … The Oilers are missing a plethora of players. On IR are Steve MacIntyre (knee), Tyler Pitlick (sprained left knee), Justin Schultz (strained groin/rib cage) and Bachman (strained groin). Luke Gazdic (shoulder) is questionable.
-- Jon Lane, NHL.com