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AT THE MORNING SKATE
After four days of practicing, the Oilers were finally back in their game-day routine Thursday morning. Head Coach Tom Renney kept the lines the same as in Wednesday's practice:
Penner - Gagner - Hemsky
Paajarvi - Horcoff - Eberle
Hall - Cogliano - Brule
Jones - Fraser - Stortini
Andrew Cogliano said skating with Taylor Hall and Gilbert Brule "will be good."
"We've had some conversations with Tom (Renney), we know exactly what we have to do and what will make us successful. We're all good skaters. I think we can all get on the forecheck and turn over pucks and create offence that way," he explained. "Taylor, obviously, he's looking for his first goal, he wants to get things on track, and I'm hoping our line can do that for him tonight."
According to assistant Coach Steve Smith, the recent line changes are based on experimentation and research.
"I think there's a little bit of experimenting going on at this time of the season with everybody, and I don't think it's any one individual thing that happened right, wrong, or indifferent," he said. "Sometimes there's things that happen in the locker room that you see, that you pick up on, little things that guys sometimes get along with one guy a little bit better than another guy. Maybe it's time to try them in the game together and see what happens."
ROUND 2 VS MINNESOTA
It's been a week since the Oilers last played the Wild, and the club is gunning for a better outcome. In the game in Minnesota, the Oilers surrendered four power-play goals, helping the Wild become the top power-play unit in the league.
Renney said discipline will be key tonight.
"Often times at home, there's a tendency to try to do the extraordinary, and with that comes frustration at times, and with frustration comes penalties," he explained. "There's a domino effect there in terms of the discipline. I think that might be the common denominator with respect to our success at home here moving forward."
Assistant Coach Steve Smith is looking forward to the contest, especially since the club hasn't played since last Saturday.
"It has been pretty difficult to get into any kind of a game rhythm at this point in time, and we are excited about getting back in front of our fans again tonight and, quite frankly, excited about getting back at the Minnesota Wild," he said. "There's a little bit of a revenge factor going on right now. Their power-play was pretty spectacular last game and our penalty killing struggled a little bit, so we look forward to getting back at it tonight."
Captain Shawn Horcoff is expecting another challenging game.
"We know against Minnesota there's not going to be a ton of open ice -- there never is," he said. "We'll have to be content with getting the puck in and playing a more chip-and-chase game, and then getting our offence through the cycle. I think last game was a good lesson."
-- Jen Sharpe, edmontonoilers.com
Season series -- This is the second of six meetings between the Northwest Division foes. The Wild scored four power-play goals, two by Mikko Koivu, on the way to a 4-2 victory on Oct. 14 in Minnesota. Niklas Backstrom made 24 saves in the triumph.
Big story -- The big question surrounding the Oilers of late is whether or not General Manager Steve Tambellini will re-assign left wing Taylor Hall back to Canadian juniors with the Windsor Spitfires before he plays his 10th NHL game. If Tambellini takes that route, Hall's entry-level contract wouldn't kick in this season. In four games, Hall, the No. 1 pick in the 2010 Entry Draft, has produced 1 assist and a minus-1 rating on a line with center Shawn Horcoff and fellow rookie Jordan Eberle. He's averaged 20 shifts a game and 15:41 of ice time.
"He's going to be here all year unless somebody tells me otherwise," Edmonton coach Tom Renney told the Edmonton Journal. "That's a conversation you'd have down the road if, in fact, there was something that seems consistent in his game that really prevents him from moving forward. I'm not there.
"I think he'll just get better (and) that's an assimilation we're prepared to work with. And not just with him but others in our lineup in a year where we think we can afford to do that and, quite honestly, we need to."
Wild -- Minnesota's offense erupted on Tuesday in a victory over the Vancouver Canucks and, in the process, forced All-Star goalie Roberto Luongo to an early exit after notching 6 goals on 18 shots through two periods on the way to a 6-2 triumph. The Wild saw 12 players record at least one point and the club went 3-for-3 on the power-play. Defenseman Marek Zidlicky had a goal and 2 assists, center Matt Cullen produced his fourth 2-point game and center John Madden notched his first goal with the Wild.
Oilers -- Following back-to-back wins over Calgary and Florida to open the season, the Oilers dropped consecutive games to Minnesota and Calgary. In their 5-3 loss to the Flames, the Oilers were outshot, 46-30 and finished 0-for-5 on the power-play. Renney is preaching patience, not panic.
"There are things now that we have to eliminate from our game, no question about that, but we have to stick with it and make sure the guys understand that," Renney said. "We can recognize parts of players' games, and our game in general, we just cannot have. I think that the Edmonton fan will remind us of that, if anybody does."
Who's hot -- Edmonton left wing Dustin Penner has totaled 3 goals and a plus-2 rating in four games. … Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom has started all five games and is 2-2-1 with a 2.38 goals-against average and .920 save percentage.
Injury report -- Oilers wing Jean-Francois Jacques (back) remains out indefinitely. … The Wild are without forwards Pierre-Marc Bouchard (post-concussion syndrome) and James Sheppard (broken kneecap) and goalie Josh Harding (torn MCL/ACL).
Stat pack -- One area in particular that Renney would like to see improvement is on faceoffs. The Oilers are currently ranked 29th in the League with a 40.2 efficiency. In their last game against the Flames, Penner went 1-for-9, Sam Gagner went 2-for-13, Andrew Cogliano was 0-for-5 and Colin Fraser went 2-for-8.
Puck drop -- Look for backup goalie Jose Theodore, who signed with Minnesota as a free agent on Oct. 1, to get his first start in goal against Edmonton or in Vancouver on Friday.
"I'm just anxious to get back in there," said Theodore. "You can cheer from the bench and cheer in games, but you want to be out there and helping your teammates."
Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer