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AT THE MORNING SKATE
Oilers game day started with a 30-minute morning skate at the exceptionally frigid HP Pavilion in San Jose. Temperatures inside the arena ranged from three to 10 degrees Celcius, according to expert guesstimates.
Following strong offensive and defensive performances in Dallas Tuesday night, the Oilers will keep the line-up the same tonight vs. the Sharks. Head coach Tom Renney hopes a similar effort produces a better end result.
"We have to certainly bring that effort and we'll let those results take care of themselves," he said. "If we play the way we did in Dallas, with that type of passion and attention to detail, we give ourselves a pretty good chance."
Edmonton's forward lines will be as follows:
Penner - Hall - Hemsky
Paajarvi - Gagner - Omark
Jones - Cogliano - Reddox
Jacques - Fraser - MacIntyre
For the second straight game, Taylor Hall will play at centre, even though Renney admits the reconfigured line struggled vs. the Stars.
"I think they've got to work a little quicker at sharing the puck and getting it to the end point, that being the net, but I see really good potential there so we'll give it a try again tonight," he said.
Another Taylor who is experiencing some in-game changes is defenceman Taylor Chorney, who was recalled from Oklahoma City January 10. The 23-year-old played 42 games with the Oilers last season and, after starting the current campain in Oklahoma City, made his return to the NHL Tuesday night.
"I knew that maybe right away it was going to be a little bit dicey, but I think as the game went on I started to feel pretty strong out there," he said. "By the third period, I felt pretty comfortable out there and I thought I was doing a pretty good job."
"Taylor's a good player and he's certainly one of those guys that can step in and really help us," the coach said. "I think he knows sort of what I like in a player and in a game plan, certainly from the back end, so I don't think that was too difficult for him to get his head around either.
"On his behalf, I'm sure he'd like to be able to come in and not just help us but nail himself a position."
DUBNYK TO START
Backing up Chorney and his fellow skaters will be Devan Dubnyk. Continuing coach Renney's two-to-one goaltending schedule, the 24-year-old steps back into the blue paint after watching Nikolai Khabibulin man the pipes for the past two games.
"I don't want to wait too long in between starts for him and I think, if I look at the rest of the season, I certainly want him to play enough so that we can make sure that he's had that type of season that he can look back on and grow and learn from," Renney explained.
"I think he's played well for us and I think it's a function too of knowing that you're in a good back-up position, that you're going to get some starts as suggested by his coaching staff. So he feels good about that, I think he's very confident, very comfortable, and because of that I think he's really trying to almost pay it forward."
After competing with Jeff Deslauriers for the back-up position last season, Dubnyk is pleased to progress to the next phase of his career.
"The important part is for me to earn my starts and earn the trust and the confidence of the guys -- you can only do the development thing for so long. I've got to be ready as we go on here to contribute more and more and give the guys a chance to win, and that's kind of what I try to do every night."
-- Jen Sharpe, edmontonoilers.com
Last 10 -- Edmonton 1-7-2, San Jose 3-7-0
Season series -- The Sharks have never swept the Oilers in a season series, but they're in position to do just that after winning the first three games. They have bigger immediate concerns, though, in the form of both a five-game overall losing streak and five straight defeats at home.
Big story -- The Oilers' youth and inexperience is well-documented, as are their road struggles -- they are 0-4-1 in their last five games away from Rexall Place. Under normal circumstances, this should play nicely into the Sharks' efforts to protect their house. But the Sharks' struggles at home have dropped their into a last-place tie in the Pacific Division with the Kings, though they're only four points behind second-place Phoenix. In the logjammed Western Conference standings, they're only five points behind fourth-place Nashville.
Oilers -- Almost 30 years ago, there was a young Edmonton winger who was moved to center and became an NHL legend. The move seemed to work out for the youngster, an Edmonton native named Mark Messier. Coach Tom Renney is trying the same thing with his young phenom, Taylor Hall, that Glen Sather did with Messier.
"Mark Messier? I don't like that comparison. That's a little bit much," said Hall to the Edmonton Journal.
The switch is a work in progress; Hall went 8-for-21 (38 percent) on faceoffs in his debut as a center in Tuesday's 3-2 loss at Dallas. But Renney indicated he's planning to keep the same line combos for San Jose, which includes Hall centering Dustin Penner and Ales Hemsky.
"I'll contemplate that a little bit overnight here. Certainly I'll give it the due diligence, but there's a good chance we'll see the same guys," Renney told the Oilers' website after practice on Wednesday.
Sharks -- Saying that scoring has been a problem for the Sharks is an understatement -- they have only six goals in their five-game skid. With offense at such a premium, allowing four in the final 16:33 of a game puts up a big red flag in the other end of the ice as well. But that's what happened Tuesday as the Maple Leafs scored four times in a 4-2 win at HP Pavilion.
"We have been whining about our offense lately, but tonight it was our defense commitment that let us down," said coach Todd McLellan.
Who's hot -- Patrick Marleau had the Sharks' only two goals Tuesday night, while Joe Thornton picked up a pair of assists. … Hemsky, named to the All-Star team, has 9 points in his last eight games and 5 points in his last six since returning from injury.
Injury report -- Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff (knee) is skating with the team but does not have a set return date yet. Forward Andrew Cogliano injured his hand against the Stars on Tuesday, but should be good to go, according to Renney. Gilbert Brule (upper body) is day-to-day. Ryan Whitney (ankle) is still weeks away, while winger Jordan Eberle (ankle, appendectomy) is due back later this month. … San Jose rookie sniper Logan Couture hurt his knee in the Leafs game and his availability for Thursday remains uncertain. Forward Joe Pavelski (lower body) is skating and remains listed as day-to-day but has missed eight games so far.
Stat pack -- Dany Heatley may have only one goal in his last 13 contests, but he has 17 points in 15 career games against the Oilers, including 3 goals and 2 assists in three games this season. … The Oilers set a season high in shots on goal (41) and a season low in shots allowed (20) in the Dallas game, but the Stars still won. … The Sharks are 2-7-0 since Christmas and have scored only 16 goals in the nine games. … Thornton has a seven-game points streak against the Oilers. … The Oilers have scored three or fewer goals in each of their last 10 games. On the power play, they are 0-for-23 over their last eight games and 1-for-9 against the Sharks.
Puck drop -- "That's one thing I love about this team, that we play together and stick up for each other and battle for 60 minutes. At some point, this has to turn around." -- Oilers forward Ryan Jones on the team's continued solid effort despite their dismal record
-- Eric Goodman - NHL.com