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AT THE MORNING MEDIA AVAILABILITY
After starting their back-to-back with a 4-3 OT win in Montreal last night, the Oilers eased in to game day number two by opting out of the morning skate and holding a team meeting at the hotel instead.
Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin was one of the few players to take to the ice as he is slated to make his first start since suffering a groin injury Nov. 17 vs. Chicago.
"I'm looking forward to seeing him (play)," head coach Tom Renney said. "I think our guys love it when he's in net, and with the way our goaltending has been, I think he'll give us as much a chance to win as anybody, of course."
Forward Ales Hemsky made his return to the line-up vs. the Canadiens but suffered a bit of a set-back in the game and is not expected to play vs. the Leafs.
"We've got to protect our athletes," Renney explained. "It's a long season, there's a lot of work to do, I'll be prudent with him. At this point in time, I'll have to say doubtful (for tonight)."
GOING FOR THE EASTERN SWEEP
With two wins so far on this eastern road trip, the Oilers will be gunning to make it a perfect three-for-three with a win tonight in Toronto. The club's confidence is high and both players and coaches are optimistic.
Andrew Cogliano said earning the come-from-behind win in Montreal was a "really good feeling.
"It's something we haven't felt a lot of that this year and I think it just shows how we're coming together as a team now. One more game left on this road trip and hopefully we'll end it off with a good win."
"It's definitely exciting, especially after our win last night," Sam Gagner added. "We feel like we're doing a lot of good things and we just want to stay on it."
Consistency has been a struggle for Edmonton all season, and Renney wants to see a third-straight solid effort from his club tonight.
"Contrary to what we've done earlier in the year when we've had a big win and we've decided that that was enough, and my sense is that they understand that that's not enough, that we have a lot of work to do and a big season still ahead of us," the coach said.
RETURN TO T-DOT
For a handful of players, a win in Toronto would be especially satisfying because of hometown ties.
"It's going to be fun," Taylor Hall said. "Obviously I have a lot of family here. I've never been fortunate enough to go to a game in Toronto but definitely it's a great hockey city, they love their hockey there, and it should be a good game."
Cogliano echoed Hall's sentiment.
"I think it will be pretty fun," he said. "It's exciting for guys like myself who live here to come play against the Leafs. I think with the start we're off on the road trip, I think everyone's pretty excited."
-- Jen Sharpe, edmontonoilers.com
Last 10 -- Edmonton 4-4-2; Toronto 3-6-1
Season series -- It's the first of two meetings in 12 days between the Oilers and Leafs. They split a pair last season, with each team winning at home.
Big story -- The teams that finished 30th (Edmonton) and 29th (Toronto) last season are down near the bottom of the NHL standings again -- but they're coming into this game in vastly different emotional states. The Oilers headed to Toronto after a stirring 4-3 overtime win at Montreal on Wednesday and will be playing for the third time in four nights as they try to sweep a swing through Eastern Canada. Toronto turned a two-goal third-period lead into a 4-3 overtime loss to Tampa Bay on Tuesday and has dropped three in a row.
Edmonton -- The Oilers looked to be on their way to a loss in Montreal on Wednesday. They trailed 3-1 midway through the third period, but Ales Hemsky scored midway through the period and Sam Gagner's shorthanded goal forced OT. Dustin Penner then won it by capitalizing on a turnover and scoring on a breakaway at 2:28 of the extra period.
Coach Tom Renney was delighted with the maturity his young team showed.
"The bottom line is that we really gutted it out here, when we could have just gone south and said that's good enough," Renney said. "These guys clearly understand that's not good enough anymore. That's the beauty of a team growing up before your eyes."
Maple Leafs -- The Leafs have had a day to stew about Tuesday's 4-3 overtime loss to Tampa Bay at the Air Canada Centre -- a game they led 3-1 in the third period and 3-2 with 10 seconds left in regulation. Mistakes and missed assignments turned what would have been a solid victory into a nightmarish loss -- and the single point they went home with was no consolation.
"We had some missed assignments, a couple of mental mistakes from veteran players that you wouldn't expect," Leafs coach Ron Wilson said.
Who's hot -- Toronto's Nikolai Kulemin has a pair of two-goal performances in his last four games.
Injury report -- Hemsky and Nikolai Khabibulin both returned from going injuries on Wednesday, with Khabibulin scheduled to start in goal against the Leafs. … Toronto will get goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere back from a groin injury, though the plan for Thursday is to have him back up Jonas Gustavsson. However, the Leafs will be without forward Mike Brown for at least four weeks after he broke a finger in the loss to Tampa Bay.
Stat pack -- The Oilers' win at Montreal on Wednesday was their first since Nov. 4, 2003. … Toronto's Nikolai Kulemin had three minor penalties on Tuesday -- one more than he had taken all season up to that point.
Puck drop -- Look for lots of young, speedy players on both teams -- the Leafs' average age of 26.0 is the youngest in the NHL, while the Oilers average 26.9.
"It will be a fast game and I think we're prepared for that," Wilson told the Toronto Sun. "We have to make smart plays and get to the front of the net."
-- John Kreiser - NHL.com Columnist