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AT THE MORNING SKATE
At Thursday's morning skate, the Oilers cleared up a number of game-day questions, including who's in, who's out, and who's starting vs. the Islanders.
After sitting out one and eight games respectively, Jason Strudwick and Steve MacIntyre will rejoin the line-up tonight. Moving up to the press box will be Jean-Francois Jacques, Zack Stortini, and Kurtis Foster.
Other than missing one game due to a groin injury in late October, Foster has appeared in every Oilers match-up up this season. Head coach Tom Renney doesn't expect the veteran defenceman to sit out for long.
"It should be a one-off, really," the coach said. "He's got some things to work on, as we all do, and we'll work with him on those things."
In addition to the scratches and activations, another change involves Liam Reddox moving from the left wing to center between Swedes Linus Omark and Magnus Paajarvi.
"It's definitely exciting," the 24-year-old said. "Myself and Linus have some chemistry we've developed down on the farm, and then obviously with Linus and Paajarvi, I think they have some chemistry from the world championships and wherever else they've played together, so I'm looking forward to it.
"I'm just going to try to read off those two, make simple plays, and hopefully we have a good night."
In goal, the Oilers will start Devan Dubnyk. The young netminder's most recent game was December 30 vs. Colorado (a 4-3 shootout loss) and, as always, he's looking forward to his return between the pipes.
"It's been nice: I've been fortunate to start getting games -- one out of three, one out of four -- but I've got to continue to work and earn that time," he said. "It's a long season and I just want to try to continue to work and make sure that I'm prepared every chance I get."
Although veteran Nikolai Khabibulin has consistently performed well, Renney said the Oilers focus on development applies to goaltending as well, meaning Dubnyk will continue to play regularly.
"In keeping with what we're doing this year, this is a young goaltender, we're a young team, he has to play," Renney explained. "Our mandate is give people opportunity, help them learn sometimes the tough way, but help them learn so that at the end of the day, as a group we're better.
"We have to put this young fellow in games to make sure he has a sense of identifying with being capable of playing in the NHL against anybody."
SINKING THE ISLES
Dubnyk's next immediate test will be the Islanders. Although the squad struggled considerably in the early part of the season, they have posted six wins in their last seven games and are expected to put up a good fight at Rexall Place.
"I think they've started to understand what their identity is, and I don't think they want to let each other down as to what that has to look like night after night," Renney said. "I think they're having fun -- my guess, because I have an idea what that feels like with a group like that -- and they're just playing really well. They just don't want to let this end, they want credibility, they want respect. Sounds familiar."
Although the Oilers are winless in the past seven, Dubnyk said a positive attitude is keeping the club's confidence high.
"We know we can do it, we know we're good enough. It's mostly our own doing that has caused things to be the way they are. It never works to get grumpy and bad moods around the room. There's just no way you're going to go out and play well together.
"We've got a pretty good group, a pretty tight group of guys in here so we're going to stick it out right through the whole season."
EBERLE IN EMERGENCY
Among the top of the club's current list of challenges are injuries to star players Shawn Horcoff, Ryan Whitney, and Jordan Eberle. In addition to suffering from an ankle injury, Eberle was rushed to the hospital late Wednesday and underwent an emergency appendectomy.
"He's doing fine," Renney assured. "He was actually in this morning for treatment on his ankle, which is coming along really well."
The coach doesn't expect the appendectomy to further delay the rookie's return to the line-up
"The schedule of time might even line up with respect to the surgery and the ankle thing ... [We] decided we'd put all the injuries and all the crap on one guy so we got it out of the way," he joked.
-- Jen Sharpe, edmontonoilers.com
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Last 10: New York 7-2-1; Edmonton 1-7-2.
Season Series: This is the lone meeting between the teams. They haven't faced each other since Nov. 2, 2009, when the Islanders earned a 3-1 victory at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Big Story: Rick DiPietro is injured again, although this one doesn't appear to be serious. The No. 1 pick from the 2000 Entry Draft suffered a groin strain during the second period of New York's 5-2 win against the Calgary Flames on Monday night, but is listed as day-to-day. The Islanders promoted Kevin Poulin from AHL Bridgeport on an emergency basis.
"I don't know if a man's body is supposed to be contorted in those positions," DiPietro told Newsday. "I felt a little twinge and hopefully it's nothing serious."
Islanders: New York is on a roll, as it enters Thursday's action with a record of 7-1-1 over its last nine games. The Islanders started their three-game winning streak by ending Sidney Crosby's remarkable run of points in 25 straight games, then won at Detroit on New Year's Eve before dousing the Flames on Monday.
"Things are starting to pay off," said second-year center John Tavares, who had two goals and an assist in Calgary. "We're really finding our chemistry and we're outworking other teams."
Oilers: Edmonton is aiming to avoid an eight-game winless streak, as it last won a game way back on Dec. 16 against Columbus. The skid reached seven on Tuesday night, when the Oilers dropped a 5-3 decision to the Red Wings at Rexall Place.
When the Detroit Red Wings come in here you kind of hope you are going to be OK instead of just going," Edmonton coach Tom Renney said. "That's what we have to do.
"We just have to go. I would rather have a tough night because we are going after things and stepping on the gas than playing with trepidation. You have to go after them and see what we are capable of."
Who's Hot: Tavares recorded three points for the second straight game -- including two power-play goals -- on Monday. He has 13 points in his last nine games. Andrew MacDonald has 10 points in his last 11 contests and Matt Moulson had three goals in his last two. … Oilers forward Sam Gagner had a goal and an assist Tuesday night. He has three points in his last two games.
Injury Report: Besides DiPietro, Isles center Frans Nielsen is also day-to-day with a groin injury. The team will be without Mark Streit (shoulder), Kyle Okposo (shoulder), Mark Eaton (hip), Mike Mottau (hip), Trent Hunter (knee), Doug Weight (back) and Radek Martinek (wrist). … Oilers forward Jordan Eberle is day-to-day with an ankle injury, while Shawn Horcoff (knee) and Ryan Whitney (knee) are out.
Stat Pack: Monday night marked the fourth time since 1987 that an Islanders goalie was credited with a win despite playing less than half of the game. Nathan Lawson relieved DiPietro in the second period and stopped 28 of 29 shots.
Puck Drop: "We can't be content with losing close games. We have to play like we do when it's 3-0 or 3-1. That's the mentality we need here all the time. When we're down by two or three there's urgency and desperation. It's when we have nothing to lose that we start to play the game differently. We need that mindset all of the game." -- Oilers forward Sam Gagner
-- Brian Compton - NHL.com Staff Writer