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AT THE MORNING SKATE
Oilers game day began with morning skate at Rexall Place at 10am. Head coach Tom Renney ran the following forward lines:
Penner - Horcoff - Hemsky
Hall - Cogliano - Eberle
Omark - Gagner - Paajarvi
Jacques - Reddox - Jones
In addition to Gilbert Brule, who continues to suffer from the flu, winger Steve MacIntyre, defenceman Jason Strudwick, and center Colin Fraser will sit out the game.
Fraser's first experience as a healthy scratch was earlier this month when the team was in Columbus. According to Renney, the 26-year-old is not the only Oiler who could play with "a little more pop."
"He's not alone in this department. I think there's other guys of a similar status if you will, size if you will, that need to do the same thing. So maybe this is the beginning of making sure guys understand what's expected of them so at the very least our young guys know that this is what the coach will deliver on if you're not performing properly."
TAYLOR BACK IN TOWN
While Fraser will sit out tonight's contest, another player has earned his way back into the line-up. Yesterday, the Oilers assigned rookie defenceman Jeff Petry and recalled fellow defenceman Taylor Chorney from the Oklahoma City Barons.
"We pay attention to what the coaching staff tells us down there with respect to who's doing what," Renney said. "You don't just hand a guy an opportunity. Chorney's back because he was the best guy down there. That's what we asked for, and that's what we got."
The 23-year-old is eager to make the most of this call-up, his second of the season.
"Anytime you get called up it's a great feeling," he said. "Everybody wants to play in the NHL and to get called up again at this point in the season, it's definitely exciting. I'm excited for the opportunity."
Chorney admits his season started slowly but added his confidence has grown considerably in the past two months.
"I think since maybe Christmas time, a little bit before that, I've started to feel pretty comfortable out there and I think I've started to control the game a little bit more and take things over a bit. And I definitely feel more confident in my game."
AIMING FOR THE STARS
With Sunday's 4-0 loss to Anaheim still fresh in their minds, the Oilers are looking for a more consistent performance -- and better result -- vs. Dallas tonight.
"It wasn't our best games of the year for sure, but our schedule is pretty good lately. It allows us to get back on track," Taylor Hall said. "If we can play well tonight and win a game, it kind of takes away that feeling of not playing the way we wanted over the past few games."
With only seven home wins on the season, the Oilers are desperate to reverse their recent Rexall Place results.
"I think what's happened to us here is we've had a lack of success at home and there's an undercurrent there of not frustration but a little bit of anxiety if you will, trepidation," Renney explained. "We play fine on the road because we don't worry about changes, we don't worry about who's up against who, we just go play. And we've tried to encourage that here at home.
"I think the big thing is we have to park all that other stuff and just really deal with playing hockey. We've been okay doing that this year. We haven't been good enough doing it at home."
The head coach hopes to see an improvement in his club's energy and mental game.
"I'm looking for mental toughness and that includes how you prepare yourself to play, your marriage to the game plan, ... and playing this game 200 by 85 with the necessary intensity, battle level, and smarts," he said.
"With that, and with the type of speed I think we've got with our ability to move the puck well when we want to, we can back teams off, and we have against Dallas."
-- Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com
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Last 10: Dallas 3-6-1; Edmonton 2-7-1
Season Series: Fourth and final meeting of the season between these teams. Dallas is aiming for the series sweep after winning three times in the span of 16 days over Edmonton during the month of January. Brenden Morrow leads all scorers with 3 goals while Kari Lehtonen has allowed only five goals in three starts.
Big Story: If the Stars don't start to turn things around during a three-game road trip through western Canada, they may find themselves plummeting from a top-three seed in the Western Conference to below the postseason cutoff by the time they return home for a Feb. 22 game against the Devils. Dallas is 1-4-1 since the All-Star break, and the rest of the Pacific Division has spent that time making up ground.
Stars: It's hardly out of the question that the last-place team in the Pacific could still end up making the playoffs, but after leading the division for much of the season Dallas really doesn't want to find that out. The Stars got a disappointing result Sunday afternoon against the visiting Blue Jackets, as Brad Richards' power-play goal started the scoring 4:36 into the first period, but the lead lasted all of 46 seconds in what became a 2-1 defeat.
"We're doing some things that just don't work," Richards said. "We're not quite on the same page for whatever reason. There's little things and stuff that we haven't been doing all year."
Oilers: This begins the second half of a six-game homestand that has yet to produce a point in the standings for Edmonton. In fact, the young Oilers have dropped their last seven at Rexall Place, including Sunday night's 4-0 loss to the Ducks, who in the process tied the Stars in the Pacific standings. The Oilers managed just 12 shots on Jonas Hiller, which rookie Taylor Hall admitted wasn't getting the job done.
"I just think we have to challenge ourselves to be a lot better," he said. "I truly believe everyone in this room cares and everyone is giving it their all, but at some point it has to turn into results."
Who's Hot: Richards has goals in three straight games for the Stars. He has 7 goals and 14 assists over his last 17 games.
Injury Report: Dallas defenseman Nicklas Grossman left Sunday's game with a lower-body injury and is day-to-day along with fellow blueliner Matt Niskanen (hand). Forward Raymond Sawanda (shoulder/nose) is out indefinitely. Forwards Toby Petersen (lower body), Jamie Benn (shoulder), Krys Barch (orbital bone) and Adam Burish (orbital bone) are on injured reserve.
Edmonton forward Shawn Horcoff is day-to-day with bronchitis. Defenseman Ryan Whitney (ankle) and forward Gilbert Brule (ankle/illness) are on injured reserve.
Stat Pack: This will be the Stars' second attempt at winning their 700th game since relocating from Minnesota to Dallas prior to the 1993-94 season. ... The Oilers need to get their struggling power play going -- they've come up empty on their last 24 attempts as part of a 3-for-82 skid over the last 23 games.
Puck Drop: There's a difference between losing a game when you played well enough to win and what happened to Edmonton on Sunday, and that wasn't lost on the 19-year-old Hall.
"Up until about three games ago, we had been playing very well and just not getting results," he said. "Now, we're kind of getting what we deserve. It's all up to us. We know that we have it in here. We know we can improve."
-- Brian Hunter | NHL.com