PREVIEW: Oilers at Stars
Oilers wrap up three-game road trip in Dallas against the Stars
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PUCK DROP: 4:08 p.m. MT
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AT THE TEAM HOTELThe Edmonton Oilers look to bounce back from their loss to Columbus on Friday, with their third-straight road game. Tonight's game in Dallas is the second of three meetings between these two teams, this season. Dallas is traditionally a city that has been unkind to the Oilers, and they look to change that script and re-write the story of this season.
"It's a good chance for us to come out of this trip with a winning record and that's always great when you go on a road trip, no matter how big or small," said Oilers forward Taylor Hall. "We didn't play as well as we wanted to last game in Columbus. You look at the game, you look at what we did and they're easy to fix and I think tonight should be a good test for us. Dallas is a great team, they have a lot of skill on their team and we don't really play well here so it's a good test for us, but I think we're up to it."
The team has not skated or practiced since their showdown in Columbus. When asked if that could make the team come out rusty, forward Jordan Eberle said, he doesn't think so.
"If anything, you feel fresh," said Eberle. "You're excited to get back on the ice and get going. Dallas is a good team. We went over some stuff and, in my mind, this is a must-win game. We've got to get back on the winning streak. I think a big thing that we're trying to put into our team right now is not trying to lose two games in a row… We avoided that the other night in Nashville, and tonight we've got to do that against Dallas. We get a win tonight, then we go into a bit of a home stand here and who knows? We dug ourselves a bit of a hole at the start of the season and we're trying to get out of it now and it starts tonight."
Boyd Gordon played just 6:21 against Columbus on Friday night, due to injury. Head Coach Dallas Eakins confirmed that Gordon will not play tonight in Dallas.
"It's going to be a huge loss tonight, because he won't play," said Eakins. "We'll insert Will Acton there to help out in the face-off circle. Boyd has been our best penalty killer, he takes critical face-offs, he's one of the top face-off guys in the league and a guy that we rely on heavily."
Eakins says the team will take a 'face-offs by committee' approach when it comes to filling the void left by Gordon's absence. Gordon is fourth in the NHL in face-offs with a 58.3% success rate.
Will Acton returns to the lineup in Gordon's place.
SPECIAL TEAMS CRUCIAL
As the Oilers look to get back on the winning track, special teams will be critical to their success. In Columbus, the Oilers were just 1 for 7 on the power play and allowed two man-advantage goals to the Blue Jackets.
Despite the lack of success in their most recent game, the problems are fixable.
"That's not who we are," said Eberle. "We're a better power play team than that. We've been in the top five the last few years and the biggest reason is, we're able to compete. A lot of us… we win a lot of battles and we seem to score a lot of goals. It's just one game. I expect a different team, as far as the power play, anyways."
Hall also stressed the need for the Oilers special teams to start clicking again, against Dallas.
"They're a good team," said Hall. "I think last time we played them, our power play wasn't the greatest against them and it seems like when we do play well this year, our power play and penalty kill is kind of the engine that is getting us going. Our special teams weren't great, by any means. It took us 50 minutes to get our power play going. I think tonight, that's a huge emphasis for us and I think that'll give us a good start."
The Oilers power play is currently ranked 13th in the league, while their penalty kill is 17th.
BRYZGALOV AGAIN IN NET
The Oilers will start Ilya Bryzgalov between the pipes for the third-straight game. Bryzgalov has a 2.24 goals against average and a .913 save percentage this season for the Oilers.
The choice to go with Bryzgalov stems from wanting to continue with his conditioning, as well as for the fact that he may have some added motivation.
"It's basically that," said Eakins. "It's a couple of things actually. I'm totally comfortable going with (Devan Dubnyk) or Bryzgalov in this game. I think it's important to get Bryz into another game, just for a feel and conditioning level. What I thought might motivate Bryz, is his family has flown in from Philadelphia. He's very close with his family, very close with his kids and I think he'll be motivated to play very well in front of them."
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
OILERS (8-17-2) at STARS (12-9-3)
TV: SNET-W, SNET-EDM, FS-SW
Last 10: Edmonton 4-6-0; Dallas 6-3-1
Big story: The Stars will begin life without defenseman Stephane Robidas, who fractured his leg Friday in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. The 36-year-old veteran has not missed more than 10 games in a season since 2003-04.
"It's going to be a void that has to be filled by someone. I think for us collectively as a group, we have to step up," Robidas' defense partner, Brenden Dillon, told the Stars' website Saturday. "He's a big part of this D corps. He's a guy that plays all situations and he plays big minutes. Last night we did a pretty good job, but he's out 4-6 months and it's not like he is going to be back next week. We are going to have to make some adjustments."
Oilers: Edmonton is wrapping up a road trip of three games in four nights. After defeating the Nashville Predators 3-0 on Thanksgiving, the Oilers lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 Friday after trailing 4-0.
"It would have been a lot better if we could have won this one tonight," Jordan Eberle told the Oilers' website Friday. "You'd get a lot of momentum going into Dallas, but you get a day off, regroup here. The best part about hockey is you get a chance to play again. It's not like football where you have to wait a week. We get a day here to regroup our minds [then] play a team that's playing well. It's a must-win for us. We've got to start making up some ground."
Coach Dallas Eakins said the poor start Friday was a reflection of the Oilers' conditioning, which caused a lack of faceoff success, penalties, and mental mistakes.
"Our goal ... is to arrive at a fitness level that you can play hard in back-to-back games," he said. "... It's going to take a while. You can't get in shape in two weeks or three months. This takes time to get to a level. ... It's something that we're not going to lay off of because I firmly believe that we looked fatigued."
Stars: Dallas will initially use Jamie Oleksiak (called up from the Texas Stars on Saturday) or Kevin Connauton to replace Robidas, but could turn to Aaron Rome when he recovers from an injury sustained at practice this week.
"We've got three guys here. It's a great opportunity," general manager Jim Nill said. "It's tough when you lose a leader like Stephane, but it's a great opportunity for other guys now. You know there are going to be injuries in this League and that's what you have to deal with."
"We're going to talk about it," coach Lindy Ruff said. "We used Stephane in a huge role when it came to defending against top lines. If we have to break up our other pairs to change the defending aspect of it, or if we can weigh the fact of putting Oleksiak and use him as a defender against other top lines, or switch up the pairs and get Connauton back in the lineup, we'll discuss that today. The tough part is the other pairs have started to play pretty well for us, and I don't know if I want to disrupt them. We'll figure that out."
Who's hot: Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has eight points in a five-game streak. Eberle has eight points in his past five games. … Stars forward Rich Peverley has a three-game point streak. Forward Cody Eakin has five points in his past five games.
Injury report: Oilers forward Boyd Gordon (undisclosed) sat out the third period Friday. Defenseman Philip Larsen (back), goalie Richard Bachman (lower body) and Tyler Pitlick (knee) are out. … Rome (muscle) skated after practice Saturday.
-- Mike Battaglino, NHL.com