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AT THE MORNING SKATE
The Oilers took to the ice this morning at Rexall Place to prepare for a Saturday night battle with the San Jose Sharks. With the team coming away victorious in two of its last three outings, Edmonton comes into tonight’s game with a renewed sense of confidence against a veteran and highly-skilled Sharks team.
As such, the Oilers have chosen to maintain the winning formula with the line combinations remaining unchanged from the previous few days of work. With Ales Hemsky still out of the lineup with a groin injury, the coaching staff has kept the following combinations and defence pairings:
Hall - Horcoff - Eberle
Penner - Cogliano - Brule
Paajarvi - Gagner - Jones
Jacques - Fraser - Stortini
Whitney - Smid
Peckham - Gilbert
Vandermeer - Foster
Devan Dubnyk will get the start in goal tonight after sitting in favour of veteran Martin Gerber on Thursday night.
LET’S GET PHYSICAL
The last time these two teams met, the Oilers fell on the wrong side of a 6-1 score; a game in which Edmonton was not only outmatched on the scoreboard, but in the trenches as well. San Jose has long been known for a sometimes dominating physical game, and according to Head Coach Tom Renney, the Oilers will need to respond in this area tonight.
“We have to be a physical team to the degree that we can be,” the coach said. “I don't think that we want to get tossed around. The only way to do that is to start that way. But you've got to play to your strengths as a team, too, and for a quick team -- a quick counter-attack team -- we've got to do that.”
Renney added that he wants to see his team not only actively involve themselves in the physical play, but to do so with high energy and enthusiasm in the process.
“Certainly when the opportunities are there to finish a check and somebody's way beyond the right side of people, we've got to do that with a certain vigour and playing heavy so we don't get pushed around.”
Defenceman Jim Vandermeer agreed with the coach’s comments, but also cautions that the team needs to be smart when partaking in the active physical play.
“It's trying to be smart and make the right play at the right time,” said the rugged blueliner. “I think the best way to send a message is to be physical on their stars. I think as a group we've got to try to do that.”
With the Oilers coming off an emotional victory Thursday night, the team is focused on carrying over the subsequent energy into tonight’s tilt. Taylor Hall, the man who scored the dramatic goal with only 28.1 seconds to play against the Avalanche, says the momentum is an important factor but that the team needs to stay focused on the task at hand.
“Getting the win was probably the biggest thing, but obviously [Jordan and I] are happy to contribute any way we can,” said the skilled winger. “It's obviously nice, but we kind of have to forget about that. This is a tough opponent for us tonight, and I'm sure that they don't care what we did that night.”
Hall expanded further on the chemistry being developed between he and his linemates, Jordan Eberle and Shawn Horcoff.
“Lately we've developed a lot of chemistry. Especially on the cycle and stuff like that, we've really started to connect as players. I think that's good -- and obviously with Horc (Shawn Horcoff) in the middle, it's been a pretty good blend so far.”
AVOIDING THE BITE
With the early season loss to the Sharks still fresh in the minds of the Oilers, Associate Coach Ralph Krueger says a good start is integral to the process of revenge.
“We remember how they ran over us, a 6-1 loss, early in the season is lingering in our minds; probably among one of the worst kind of evenings evenings we've had,” Krueger recalled. “We want to react physically, no question, right off the bat. They're going to be a grumpy group and we want to make them even grumpier with a great start tonight.”
Defenceman Kurtis Foster added to Krueger’s comments, saying that the team isn’t about to take this Sharks team lightly regardless of their struggles a night ago.
“The start is huge. They're going to be coming out pretty hard. They got beat pretty bad last night by Vancouver, so they're going to be coming out as hard as they can, trying to get the win here,” said Foster.
“[The Sharks] have got some big, strong forwards that cycle the puck well and get the puck to the net, so we've got to do a good job of taking the body and making sure that we're making it difficult for them all night and making sure that it's not going to be an easy game.”
The Oilers hope to do that and much more as the team seeks its second consecutive victory and revenge against the Sharks.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com
Last 10 -- San Jose 5-2-3; Edmonton 3-5-2
Season series -- It's the second meeting of the season. The Sharks came to Rexall Place on Oct. 23 and had no trouble beating Edmonton 6-1. San Jose has won seven of the last eight meetings.
Big story -- The Oilers will try to do Saturday what the Sharks couldn't do Friday -- build on an emotional victory. San Jose was routed 6-1 at Vancouver, two days after a 5-2 home victory against Chicago, the team that eliminated the Sharks from the playoffs last spring. The Oilers enter this game on a high after Taylor Hall's goal with 28.1 seconds remaining gave them a 3-2 win against Colorado on Thursday.
Sharks -- Antti Niemi, had just coughed up six goals in his team's worst loss to Vancouver in 10 years, but Sharks coach Todd McLellan chose to blame the players in front of his goaltender after a turnover-filled evening.
"You can t pin it on (Niemi) by any means. You've got to look at the other 19 guys in front of him," McLellan said. "We were stubborn. We didn't want to stay to our game plan and get pucks behind them so we turned it over a lot."
Oilers -- Coach Tom Renney lit into his team after Tuesday's poor effort in a 5-0 loss at Phoenix. He was a lot happier on Friday after the Oilers led 2-0 less than five minutes into the game, saw Colorado tie the score but won it on Hall's goal.
"I'm happy for our guys," he told the Oilers' website. "They care, they want to do well, they want to play instinctive and spontaneous and high-paced hockey and do all the right things. You might get a taste of that a little bit when you're in our room, seeing what kind of a group they are, but on a daily basis as a coaching staff we sure do."
Who's hot -- San Jose's Dany Heatley has goals in the Sharks' last two games. Center Joe Thornton has 3 assists in those two games. … Martin Gerber, recalled by the Oilers for Thursday's game, may have earned more playing time with a solid 35-save performance.
Injury report -- San Jose center Scott Nichol took a puck in the eye during Friday's morning skate and didn't play. He's questionable for this game. Forward Devin Setoguchi left after the first period against the Canucks with an undisclosed injury and is also questionable. Defenseman Jason Demers missed Thursday's game with an upper-body injury. … Edmonton forward Ales Hemsky and goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin will miss the game with groin injuries.
Stat pack -- San Jose is winless in its last six road games (0-4-2), but the Sharks have won five of their last six visits to Rexall Place.
Puck drop -- This figures to be a big test for the Sharks, who are playing their third game in four nights against a team that's not as good as they are but is better-rested and coming off an emotional victory. The Sharks have yet to show the consistency that has been their hallmark while winning the West in each of the last two seasons.
-- John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist