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AT THE MORNING SKATE:
The Oilers started their gameday with a team meeting and skate at Joe Louis Arena Tuesday morning. Although the skate was technically listed as optional, the majority of players took to the ice.
After Devan Dubnyk got the start Sunday in St. Louis, Jeff Deslauriers was the first goalie off the ice and is expected to start tonight in Detroit.
Building on the positives
The Oilers have won all three contests vs. the Red Wings this season, but the club isn't expecting to coast into a series sweep.
"They can embarrass you," head coach Pat Quinn said about the Wings. "If you don't want to work with them, if you want to watch them play, they'll play and they'll play good."
"They do have some guys that are smart hockey players, both with the puck and without, so you've got to be smart," forward Mike Comrie added. "Sometimes you just have to put pucks to the net and get traffic there. It doesn't matter what line it is -- sometimes it's got to be ugly."
As their record proves, the Oilers have struggled this season but have found a way to do the right things vs. the Red Wings.
"Sometimes when you're a coach, you don't know why your team does it one night and maybe not the next night, but each of the games we were able to put the puck in early, position well, get some turnovers off a really good puck-moving team, and we were able to attack," Quinn explained.
"We seem to create offensive rush chances against this team, and it has been out of our defensive alignment and our attention to detail."
Mike moves up
Quinn and his coaching staff hope to see more of those offensive opportunities tonight, especially from the new line combination of Dustin Penner, Andrew Cogliano, and Mike Comrie. Comrie debuted on the line during Monday's practice and is looking forward to the opportunity to make a difference in Detroit.
"Everybody always wants to play an offensive role if that's what you can do, but you've got to be realistic and we understand the situation we're in," he said. "Now that I'm playing with these guys, I think I've got to get open and try to make some plays against the Red Wings. They're a puck-possession team, so you're going to have to be smart about the type of plays you make."
Assistant coach Wayne Fleming is looking for chemistry from the trio.
"Cogs has got some great speed and Pens can finish it and Mike can make the plays, so hopefully we can get some type of chemistry out of that group," he said. "I think it's good too to change those lines up and now and then because it forces more communication, they've got to interact more whether it's on the ice or on the bench and between periods as well."
OILERS (24-44-7) at RED WINGS (39-23-13)
Last 10 -- Edmonton 3-6-1; Detroit 8-1-1
Season series -- These two clubs will wrap up their four-game season series with the League's last-place Oilers having won the previous three contests: two in the shootout at home and a 4-1 victory on Dec. 3 at Joe Louis Arena.
Big story -- Just a week ago, the Red Wings appeared in danger of missing the playoffs for the first time since the 1989-90 season, but a five-game winning streak now has Detroit gunning for the fifth seed in the Western Conference. Also, with seven games still remaining on their schedule, the Wings (91 points) have an outside shot of overtaking the Chicago Blackhawks (99 points) for the Central Division title.
Oilers -- Losers of seven of its last 10 games, Edmonton is now guaranteed to finish in last place of the entire NHL this season and would need to amass six points over its final seven games to avoid the worst finish in franchise history. The Oilers will continue on their four-game road trip Tuesday having lost the first game, 2-1 at St. Louis on Sunday. Edmonton has currently lost seven in a row on the road, all during this month, and Tuesday's visit to Detroit remains as the final away game in March.
Red Wings -- There is a good reason why they call Detroit "Hockeytown" as the Wings can be counted on as one of a handful of clubs in the League to pretty much be a lock for the playoffs every season. While injuries and a slow start gave some Motor City residents a bit of a scare, the Original Six powerhouse appears destined to make yet another return to the postseason.
A 6-2 victory over Minnesota this past Friday gave Detroit its fifth straight win at the Joe and solidified its standing as one of the hottest teams since the Olympic break. The Wings are 10-2-1 since the League returned from a two-week hiatus at the beginning of this month.
Who’s hot -- Rookie goalie Devan Dubnyk has won two of his last three starts, with a 1.66 goals-against average over that span for Edmonton. Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard is 8-1-1 with a 1.70 GAA over his last 10 games, including a 1-0 shutout victory over Nashville in the shootout this past Saturday.
Injury report -- Sam Gagner (hip) is still listed as day-to-day for the Oilers. … Right wing Kirk Maltby (shoulder surgery) is expected to be the only Red Wing out of action on Tuesday.
Stat pack -- The Oilers are in last place in the Western Conference in both goals-against per game (3.33) and goals-for per game (2.44) this season.
Puck drop -- Seeing the Oilers on the schedule should make most teams confident that they can grab an easy win, but it's important that the Wings don't get ahead of themselves. About a week ago, Edmonton won three straight over Detroit, San Jose and Vancouver, all of which are playoff contenders. If Detroit treats Edmonton as a team that is also trying to make the postseason, then it might avoid another surprise loss at the hands of the League’s worst team.
-- Eric Goodman, NHL.com