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AT THE MORNING SKATE
The Oilers took to the ice for morning skate Tuesday but without two of their most recent additions. Linus Omark and Liam Reddox, who were recalled from the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons Monday afternoon, encountered some flight issues and were unable to make morning skate.
"They should be here any minute now," head coach Tom Renney told the media after the skate at around 11am.
Although arranging travel from Oklahoma to Edmonton is challenging, the coach reminded the media that it was worse in previous seasons (when the AHL affiliate was located in Springfield, Mass.) and that many NHL teams are in the same boat when it comes to cross-country call-ups.
"A lot of teams have to deal with that too, so we're no different than anybody else. We try to give ourselves as much of a heads-up as we possibly can," Renney said. "I don't know that it's a real big deal other than maybe if there's any kind of fatigue involved."
Without the two call-ups, the look of Edmonton's forward lines vs. Detroit wasn't clear this morning. Renney said the team has a contingency plan in case Omark and Reddox don't make it for game time.
"We've tried to settle in on a scenario that would include two players that are coming in and then a scenario that would suggest maybe they don't make it," he explained. "There are different combinations and it's kind of exciting as a coach because that can also happen and evolve during the game, and I don't mind that either."
One new combination that is expected to take to the ice is that of Magnus Paajarvi, Sam Gagner, and Ales Hemsky.
Paajarvi was a healthy scratch last game vs. Calgary and is excited to return to the line-up.
"It was frustrating to sit in the press box for sure, but you learn from that and you move on. I'm playing tonight and I'm excited," he said.
Gagner is looking forward to playing with his new line-mates.
"It's definitely an exciting prospect for us. I think Maggie is obviously pretty excited to get back in the line-up, and with his speed he opens up a lot of room. I think with Hemmer, I've learned how to complement him, and it's just a matter of getting him the puck with speed and then playing my game.
"It should be a fun night if we can get off to a good start and have the right habits, and hopefully we can do that and come out with a win," the centre said.
CLIPPING THE WINGS
Gagner and his teammates will have their hands full tonight. Although the Wings are coming off two home losses and are without sniper Pavel Datsyuk, the club continues to be dangerous and is tied for second in the league with 53 points.
"They have some injuries in their line-up but they're still a very deep team, they're a very deep organization, and we know that in order to have an opportunity to beat them, we have to be on top of our game," Assistant Coach Steve Smith said. "We have to be ready for three strong periods, we have to be ready for a strong start, and we have to be available to be courageous to block shots and do all the little things that help us win."
Renney's respect for the Wings is obvious.
"There are lots of teams that are playing this game really well right now; certainly I don't know of anybody, when they're healthy, better than the Red Wings, and that's with all due respect to five or six other teams that are doing a great job," the coach said.
"There is a style of play that we want to have here in Edmonton, there is a way we want to play, and it's not exactly cookie-cutter Detroit Red Wing, but we have to make sure that we pay attention to what we want to look like a year from now and two years from now and continue to work on that now, every day."
-- Jen Sharpe, edmontonoilers.com
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THE GUARDIAN PROJECT
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Last 10 -- Detroit 5-3-2; Edmonton 2-6-2
Season series -- The Red Wings lead the Oilers 2-0 with their last win a 6-2 trouncing on Nov. 11 at Joe Louis Arena.
Big Story -- After an unusual pair of back-to-back losses, the Red Wings are hoping a trip to Edmonton to take on the struggling Oilers will cure what ails them.
Red Wings -- After a one-year sabbatical from the top of the Central Division, things appear to have righted themselves in Motown. The Red Wings are tied for first overall in the NHL with 53 points, and their prodigious offense has scored the most goals in the Western Conference. Detroit missed a golden opportunity to take sole possession of the League's top spot in their last game, a 3-2 loss to Philadelphia on Sunday afternoon, but with an eight-point lead over St. Louis in the Central the Wings are sitting pretty.
Still, Sunday's loss to the Flyers gave the Wings two straight defeats, which while currently just a blip, is something the team will want to curb quickly in the competitive race for home ice in the playoffs. If there is a major cause for concern, it could be goaltender Jimmy Howard, who has lost his last two outings and was given the hook after 40 minutes against Philadelphia, but Howard still leads the League in wins, and with an offense like Detroit's any goaltending-induced slump is likely to be short-lived. The Wings have been particularly potent of late, with Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom each tallying 11 points in their last seven games.
Oilers -- Edmonton sits at the opposite end of the spectrum from its Tuesday night adversary, but despite the Oil's current position -- Edmonton is last in the West and 14 points off the pace for the final playoff spot -- there is plenty for the team to be excited about. With contributions from exciting youngsters like Jordan Eberle and Magnus Paajarvi, Edmonton's future looks bright, but the ups and downs that come with learning the game have been clearly evident in the Oilers' inconsistent season.
Those issues can be found in a microcosm in 2010 No. 1 pick Taylor Hall, who has had a solid rookie season with 22 points in 37 games, and looked like a bonafide star at times. But Hall has been prone to his slumps as well, such as his current one in which he has just 1 point in his last four games. As well, the team's growth has been complicated by the inconsistent play of veteran goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who has lost his last four starts. In a bizarre twist, however, Khabibulin's goals-against average over those starts, 2.53, is actually significantly lower than his season mark of 3.31. That fact may simply be another lesson for the youthful Oil, which seems to get a new primer every day on how each part needs to work to succeed at the game's top level.
Who's Hot -- Despite Edmonton's recent woes, Dustin Penner has quietly fashioned a four-game point streak with 1 goal and 4 assists. ... Detroit's Valtteri Filppula has scored in two straight games while putting together a five-game point streak of his own.
Injury Report -- Detroit's place atop what might be the League's most competitive division is all the more impressive given the litany of contributors who are currently on IR. Most notably, Pavel Datsyuk (broken right hand) is still expected to miss a few more weeks, while Danny Cleary will also be out at least a month after breaking his left ankle on Dec. 23. The Wings are likely to have Brad Stuart, however, who is listed as probably with a head injury. Patrick Eaves (elbow) is listed as questionable.
The Oilers recently placed Ryan Whitney on injured reserve with an ankle injury and could be without the slick skills of Eberle, who is questionable with an ankle injury of his own. Jim Vandermeer is expected to be activated in time for Tuesday's game after suffering his own ankle injury last month.
Stat Pack -- The Red Wings could be in for a scoring frenzy Tuesday night. Detroit's 3.41 goals per game are the most in the League, and with Edmonton surrendering a League-high 3.24 goals per outing, things could get out of hand quickly.
Puck Drop -- Despite their record, the Oilers are hardly pushovers. Ales Hemsky (6 points in the last four games) has been productive lately, which could be of concern for the Wings, but with Detroit opening a five-game road swing which will also pit them against Northwest-leading Vancouver on Saturday night, a victory would be a nice start to one of the Wings' longest trips of the season.
-- David Kalan - NHL.com Staff Writer