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AT THE MORNING MEDIA AVAILABILITY
With six consecutive losses providing the backdrop for the Oilers’ most recent run of action, the team is hoping a return to the road will help kick-start some positive vibes and a quick return to the win column.
After holding a full team practice Saturday morning in Edmonton, the Oilers opted to bypass the morning skate as the group rests up before a battle with the Ducks tonight at Honda Center. The Oilers did, however, speak with the media at the team hotel to give their thoughts and pre-game commentary late Sunday morning.
Although the team didn’t skate this morning, Head Coach Tom Renney confirmed these lines for tonight’s game, but cautioned that there could be changes prior to puck drop:
Hall - Horcoff - Eberle
Penner - Gagner - Hemsky
Jones - Cogliano - Brule
Paajarvi - Fraser - Jacques
Whitney - Gilbert
Belle - Foster
Peckham - Vandermeer
Devan Dubnyk will get the start in goal, with veteran netminder Martin Gerber serving backup duty.
SO-CAL, SO GOOD
While the results of late have been consistent for the wrong reasons, the effort and execution drastically improved Friday night, despite the 4-3 shootout loss to Phoenix. Forward Dustin Penner agreed that there was improvement, and says that the group’s mentality needs to reflect the psychological shift in the team’s overall game.
"That's how you have to think when you're going through a tough time. Especially in the last few years we've learned to deal with that, and I think we've been closer now that we have in the past before,” said Penner of the self-belief in the locker room.
Penner added his thoughts on what the team needs to do tonight to return to the win column.
"We have to do much of the same that we did against Phoenix. We played well, better than we have in a long time. Our PK was solid, our powerplay was good. If we continue along that trend -- an upward trend -- it should be a better result for us tonight."
Captain Shawn Horcoff agreed with Penner’s assessment and commented further on the team’s readiness.
"This year we know we have the quality and the talent there to get it done. It's just a matter of playing together and being ready right from the drop of the puck, and I thought we were ready right from the start last time."
Confidence is a budding theme that’s building both with the team as a whole, and with certain individuals as well. Defenceman Shawn Belle commented on his role with the team and the assurance the coaching staff have been showing with his game.
"The minute you start doubting yourself, you take a step back. When you come here (to Edmonton) you want to play with everything that you have and do what you do that got you up here.”
Head Coach Tom Renney says that confidence isn’t an issue with the multitalented blueliner.
"I have no problem whatsoever with Shawn. It's one of those dynamics that certainly proves a benefit to us when we can come into our lineup," said the bench boss.
"As spoken about earlier in the season and in training camp even, this kid's awfully close to being a full-time NHLer and I think he's proving that again now."
THE TOUGHNESS FACTOR
The Oilers had a difficult time with the Ducks last season, posting an 0-2 record at Honda Center and an 0-4 record overall vs. Anaheim in 2009-10. Coming into tonight’s test, Tom Renney recognizes the fact that the Oilers will need to be instigators in physical play in order to have success.
"We still feel that we've got a lineup that can do that, and when called upon those people have to lean back, if not push back in the first place. I feel we're going to be fine there,” the coach explained.
“If we can really push the pace off the bench and really get pucks in behind them and hunt them down -- and through the course of 60 minutes we might be able to get ourselves a win, if in fact we're skating well."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com
Last 10: Edmonton 2-6-2; Anaheim 6-2-2
Season series: First of four meetings this season. Anaheim swept in 2009-10 by a combined 20-9 score. George Parros scored 4 goals all season -- three of them came against Edmonton, tying him with teammates Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan for tops in the series.
Big story: The Ducks' record over their last 10 games is a little deceiving -- they've actually lost four in a row (two in overtime) since starting the month of November with a six-game winning streak. The Oilers may turn out to be the perfect remedy -- they're 0-4-2 over their last six and sit at the bottom of the Western Conference standings.
Oilers: All of 34.4 seconds separated Edmonton from what would have been a satisfying home win over Phoenix on Friday, but with the way things have gone lately it wasn't that stunning when Wojtek Wolski scored with that much time showing on the clock and Eric Belanger tallied the decisive shootout goal as the Coyotes came all the way back from a 3-0 deficit to hand the Oilers a 4-3 defeat. Still, it was a better overall effort following blowout losses against the Hurricanes and Blackhawks.
"Obviously we'd like to come out with a win. It's nice to get a point, but we want to win games and I think we took a lot of pretty big steps forward," goalie Devan Dubnyk said. "We were disciplined for the entire game and did a lot of good things system-wise, so I think if we play like that, we'll probably end up with two points more often than not."
Ducks: The effort wasn't lacking on Anaheim's part either in a 4-3 loss to Columbus on Friday. The Ducks pumped 50 shots on goal only to be turned aside 47 times by Steve Mason of the Blue Jackets. Saku Koivu's power-play goal and Ryan's shorthanded tally in the first 5:01 of the second period gave them a brief 2-1 lead, but Chris Clark scored just 25 seconds after Ryan to start a barrage of three-straight goals for the visitors.
"When you get 50 shots, you need more than three goals," said Ryan, who wasn't willing to use Mason's heroics as an excuse. "That falls on us, not him being so good."
Who's hot: Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff has 2 goals in his last three games. Defenseman Ryan Whitney leads the team with 16 points -- all assists -- and has 5 in his last four games. … Corey Perry has 4 goals and 3 assists during a five-game points streak for the Ducks.
Injury report: Edmonton defenseman Ladislav Smid is skating again as he recovers from a concussion, but is unlikely to play before Tuesday's game in Phoenix. He remains on injured reserve along with goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (groin).
Anaheim forward Teemu Selanne is nursing a sore groin and is day-to-day. Defenseman Andy Sutton (hand) and forwards Joffrey Lupul (back), Jason Jaffray (knee), Dan Sexton (nasal surgery), Matt Beleskey (concussion) and Kyle Chipchura (concussion) are on injured reserve.
Stat pack: Whitney, traded to the Oilers by the Ducks last season, had 1 goal and 3 assists in two games against his former team following the deal. … Anaheim is 132-56-27 on home ice since the start of the 2005-06 season, including 7-2-1 this season.
Puck drop: One of these teams will end a prolonged losing streak Sunday -- we can't tell you who it will be, but since Anaheim is involved, chances are it will be a tight game. Eight of the Ducks' past nine games were decided by a single goal and in the one that wasn't, Ryan scored an empty-netter for a 4-2 win over the Stars. They're 8-3-3 in one-goal games this season.
"I really can't remember playing in any other type of games with this hockey club for a long time," coach Randy Carlyle said.
-- Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer