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AT THE MORNING SKATE
The Oilers had on their game faces Thursday morning as they headed into the Joe Louis Arena to prepare for an evening battle vs. the perpetually competitive Detroit Red Wings.
Defenceman Jim Vandermeer is expected to return to the line-up while forward Steve MacIntyre will watch from the press box, meaning Edmonton will ice seven defencemen and 11 forwards.
"Tom (Renney, head coach) gives me enough heads up when I'm in and when I'm out, so I kind of know what's going on," Vandermeer said after the skate. "It's just staying focused, and when I get the opportunity, just go out there and make the best of it, keep things simple and play hard."
Shawn Horcoff also skated briefly with the team this morning, marking his first return to the ice since suffering a deep thigh bruise Sunday night in Chicago. The Oilers captain says he is seeing steady improvement but is not ready to play.
"I was hoping [to play] tonight but it's probably about 75%," he explained. "I've got to be able to go a little deeper and I still need to be able to push a little bit harder.
"I see really good improvements every night so hopefully I'll get the same thing tonight and maybe (play) tomorrow."
WINNING VS. THE WINGS
With a 7-1 loss to Carolina fresh in their minds, the Oilers have a lot to prove tonight in Detroit. Renney is hoping the Red Wings bring the best out of his club.
"You're in the Joe against a good hockey club that's healthy," he said. "There's lots of reasons to be fearful coming to the rink but you don't want it to paralyze you either.
"I think what we've done this year is under those circumstances, we've risen to the occasion," Renney continued. "I think we've generally handled this really well. What's unique now is that it's a hostile environment and I'm really excited about coming in here tonight and seeing what we can do."
The Oilers will have to do a lot of things right, he added.
"We're really going to have to manage the puck well, we're going to have to keep our shifts short. We know the penalty box is an enemy. At the same time as you say that, you've got to play on the edge, you've got to push the envelope on these guys, get in on them, and try to be disruptive with respect to how they can kind of connect the dots moving up the ice," the coach explained.
Renney is also expecting a good, disciplined performance from rookies Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, who were benched for a portion of Tuesday's game in Carolina.
"I think we've given them good feedback on what they need to do moving forward, and they'll do that," he said. "They'll do everything they can do to be legitimate tonight, and I don't have any fear that they're not going to give it their best effort."
-- Jen Sharpe, edmontonoilers.com
Last 10: Edmonton 2-6-2; Detroit 7-3-0
Season Series: These teams meet for the second time in seven days, with the Red Wings drawing first blood in the season series by picking up a 3-1 road win over the Oilers on Nov. 5 behind an empty-net goal and 2 assists from Danny Cleary. Jimmy Howard (29 saves) outdueled Nikolai Khabibulin (27 saves).
Big Story: Not much escapes the notice of Detroit coach Mike Babcock, who is undoubtedly aware that while Edmonton has the fewest points in the Western Conference, the young Oilers have also won twice this season in the home building of defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago, the Wings' Central Division rival. Despite its record, this isn't a team to be taken lightly.
Oilers: Like many organizations that go through a rebuilding process, it's been one step forward, two steps back for Edmonton this season. Following a 2-0-0 start, the Oilers lost their next six games. They won in Chicago for the first time, then returned home and lost consecutive games. They won in Chicago for a second time on Sunday, but followed that up by getting blasted 7-1 in Carolina on Tuesday.
"We didn't win the Stanley Cup when we beat Chicago. We just beat a hockey team. That's what we're supposed to do,” coach Tom Renney told the Edmonton Journal.
"The bottom line is you can't sit back and get fat just because you got a win. You work even harder because, if you're going to get any momentum in this League, it's got to come from winning.
"We have to make sure can recover so we can at least make ourselves respectable in Detroit."
Red Wings: A six-game homestand for Detroit got off to a positive start Monday when Henrik Zetterberg tipped in a Ruslan Salei shot in overtime to give the Red Wings a 3-2 win over the Coyotes. They entered the third period down one, but Nicklas Lidstrom continued his tremendous start by scoring the game-tying goal. Jimmy Howard, whose streak of 22 straight games dating back to last season without a regulation loss ended Saturday in Vancouver, bounced back to make 29 saves.
"Bert [Todd Bertuzzi] made a good pass to Rusty and he really held onto the puck, so I had a chance to get to the side of the net," Zetterberg said of the winning goal. "He made a good shot pass, I just put the stick there and it went in."
Who's Hot: Dustin Penner scored his team-leading fifth goal in the Oilers' loss to the Hurricanes. … Lidstrom (2-10-12) and Pavel Datsyuk (4-8-12) have nine-game points streaks for the Red Wings. Cleary (3-4-7) has a five-game points streak.
Injury Report: Edmonton captain Shawn Horcoff missed Tuesday's game with a lower-body injury. Forward Jean-Francois Jacques is on injured reserve recovering from back surgery. … Detroit goalie Chris Osgood is day-to-day with a groin injury. Forward Kris Draper is on injured reserve recovering from sports hernia surgery.
Stat Pack: The Oilers have been outscored 21-10 in the first period this season. … Red Wings defenseman Brian Rafalski picked up an assist and had two shots in 15:18 of ice time against the Coyotes after missing the previous 10 games following arthroscopic knee surgery. Rafalski has an assist in each of the three games he's played this season.
Puck Drop: Taylor Hall, the No. 1 pick in the draft by Edmonton in June, is the centerpiece of the organization's plan for a brighter future, but he's not immune to growing pains either. Hall played just 8:47 in Tuesday's loss and was benched for almost the entire third period.
"I'm pretty sure I know what the message was," Hall told the Edmonton Journal. "It was completely justified. I can't blame him for not playing me in the third. I'll get another chance in a couple of nights and I have to do better."
-- Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer