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After landing late in Columbus, the Oilers opted out of a morning skate and instead held a team meeting and addressed the media at the hotel.
Not surprisingly, the morning's discussions centered on the previous night's 5-3 loss to St. Louis and how to ensure a better result tonight.
"We did a lot of good things," Shawn Horcoff said. "I think our biggest thing right now is we've managed to kind of turn our starts around and we come out, especially the last few games, with some really good first periods. We just have to be able to get the lead from it.
"If we're dominating the first period and we get down a goal, we get a little bit frustrated and change our game a bit," he continued. "We have to find ways to battle through that and do a lot of the same things. We're really creating a lot of good chances out there and I think it's just a matter of trying to get a few more."
Head coach Tom Renney agreed.
"I look at our last eight or ten games, and with the exception of one, we've out-chanced every team we've played. You take solace in that for sure because when you're getting out-chanced you're getting out-played," he added.
"Certainly last night I don't think the score suggests exactly what happened but it does suggest once again our specialty teams were a bit of a problem for us and that certainly can be a difference maker, no question."
PENNER FEELING BETTER
Edmonton will hope to get some spark from forward Dustin Penner, who missed Friday night's contest due to the flu. Renney said he intends to play the big winger alongside Horcoff and Ales Hemsky.
"I'd like to have done that a couple of games ago, actually, but I decided to try something a little different," the coach explained. "From a coaching perspective we'll make sure we put Horcoff, Hemsky and Penner together and let them take us forward."
The Oilers will also rely on continued offensive contributions from the line of Taylor Hall, Andrew Cogliano, and Jordan Eberle.
"I thought that they really put some life into our hockey team from an attack perspective and allowed us to start to feel real good about ourselves, getting ourselves back into a game," Renney said.
Cogliano enjoys skating with the rookies.
"They're such good players, high-end players that you get in the right spots, do the little things for them. As a centerman, just play a good two-way game and make sure you're on the right side of the puck, and give it to them when you get the chance, and last night it worked good," he recalled.
"You get them in the right spot, they just beat the defencemen and take it to the net, so I'll continue to do that. For myself, when I end up giving it to them wide and I see them going to the net, just try to meet them there because there might be rebounds."
BATTLE THE BLUE JACKETS
Another strong start, speedy attacks, and improved specialty teams will be key to a win tonight, Renney explained.
"We have to come out strong. I think Columbus plays, with no disrespect intended, they play a simple game but they play it hard, and because of that they play it well," he said.
"What we have to do is make sure that we don't give up too much, naturally. Limit the odd-man rushes, number one. Number two, we have to make sure that we go after this team. They played last night too and I think maybe it's an advantage for us with teams underestimating our work habits and our ability to step into games and play hard, especially on the road."
After Devan Dubnyk manned the pipes Friday night, Nikolai Khabibulin will close out this back-to-back for the Oilers.
-- Jen Sharpe, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (15-28-8) at BLUE JACKETS (24-22-5)
TV -- CBC (HD); FS-Ohio (West)
Last 10 -- Edmonton 2-7-1; Columbus 4-4-2
Season series -- It's the third of four meetings between the Western Conference rivals. They've split the first two, with the Jackets winning 3-2 in a shootout at home on Oct. 28 and the Oilers rolling to a 6-3 win in Edmonton on Dec. 16.
Big story -- The Oilers are the only team out of the Western Conference playoff race, and the Blue Jackets are trying not to join them. Columbus is back home after winning a game it had to have -- a 3-0 victory at Detroit on Friday night. The Jackets are still 14th in the West, but are just six points behind Minnesota and Phoenix, who hold down the last two playoff berths.
Oilers -- Taylor Hall, the No. 1 pick in the Entry Draft last June, continues to impress. He scored his 17th goal of the season in Friday's 5-3 loss at St. Louis and will be returning to the site of his first NHL goal.
"We played well," Hall told the Edmonton Sun. "Cogs is really good in his own end and for a player coming back and missing 13 games Ebs was one of our best players out there."
Blue Jackets -- If the Jackets are going to mount any kind of a playoff run, they've got to have Steve Mason play the way he did against the Wings. Mason looked like the goaltender who won the Calder Trophy in 2008-09, stopping all 34 Detroit shots for his second shutout of the season and the third of his career against the Jackets' bête noir.
Mason said he got plenty of help against a team that's made life miserable for the Jackets throughout their 10 NHL seasons.
"Our backcheck, especially in the third period, did a good job and took away their forecheck," he said "And that took away the momentum they were trying to build."
Who's hot -- Hall has 3 goals and 5 points in the Oilers' last five games. He and Dustin Penner share the team lead with 32 points. … Columbus captain Rick Nash had his nine-game point-scoring streak snapped on Friday but has 14 points in his last 10 games.
Injury report -- The Oilers' best defenseman, Ryan Whitney, is out for the season after ankle surgery. Forward Gilbert Brule has missed 12 games with an illness, but Jordan Eberle returned Friday after missing time with an ankle injury and an appendectomy. … Columbus has been without forward Ethan Moreau (ribs), and defenseman Rostislav Klesla has missed the Jackets' last three games with a lower-body injury. 2009 first-rounder John Moore could make his debut in Klesla's place on Saturday.
Stat pack -- The Oilers have lost nine games in regulation when outshooting their opponent, including Friday at St. Louis. When doing so, they are 2-9-2. … The Oilers are last in both power-play percentage (12.3 percent) and on the penalty kill (73.3 percent).
Puck drop -- The season continues to be a nightmare for Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin, who figures to get the start after Devan Dubnyk played Friday. He made 37 saves in the win against Columbus on Dec. 16, but has lost 12 in a row since then. Khabibulin is 8-23-2 with a 3.44 goals-against average this season; not surprisingly, the Oilers are last in the NHL with 176 goals allowed.-- John Kreiser, NHL.com