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AT FRIDAY'S PRACTICE
With Saturday's 1:30pm matinee vs. Atlanta looming, the Oilers held one last practice at Rexall Place late Friday morning. All Oilers participated in the 45-minute skate, including Gilbert Brule, who is nearly ready to leave the injured reserve and return to the line-up.
Although the speedy forward's return is imminent, head coach Tom Renney confirmed it won't happen tomorrow afternoon.
"I think he's ready to go, but I do have the luxury of the situation being what it is, and I want to make sure that the guys that are getting it done right now get an opportunity to keep that going," he said.
"I can't keep him out -- I can't keep any of these guys out too long. It has diminishing returns when they do come in. And he's worked awfully hard to get himself ready and I respect that," Renney added.
When asked if Brule might be assigned to Oklahoma City on a conditioning stint, the coach said, "I don't know if that would be necessary."
GOING FOR THREE
By keeping the line-up consistent, the Oilers hope to produce a third consecutive win Saturday afternoon. Players, coaches, and management have made an effort to stay positive throughout this challenging season, and the recent wins have done more than add four points to the team's tally.
"I think it helps sort of legitimize the need to stay intense, the need to fight through adversity, the need to continue to follow a game plan, and that whatever our circumstances are, we're in complete control of how we want to approach each and every game," Renney said.
"You can choose to be a victim or you can choose to be a survivor, and I think we're learning there's really only one way to go about business in the NHL and that's to try to win all the time."
Theo Peckham said the key to a third straight win is keeping it simple.
"The things we've done in the past two games to win, I think we have to carry those over not just think that we're God's gift to hockey all of a sudden, try to come up with those fancy plays and stuff like that. I don't think that's going to really help us in being successful. I think it's just going back to the basics and doing kind of what got us here," he said.
Other than the opponent, one big difference between the past two contests and Saturday's match-up is game time. The Oilers are used to playing in the evening, but the puck drops for Saturday's game at 1:30pm.
One week ago the Oilers dropped a 5-3 matinee decision to the Senators; Renney hopes his team comes more prepared this time around.
"Not having been here a week or so ago, it sounds like we kind of had one foot on the curb and the other off, so we just have to make sure that we're really ready," he said. "If we can have a real good start then I think we'll be fine. I think we've locked into something again here with how we have to play, regardless of the time."
-- Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com
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Last 10 -- Atlanta 2-6-2, Edmonton 3-7-0
Season series -- It's one-and-done for these two, who haven't met in more than a year. Their last meeting, a 3-2 Atlanta win at Philips Arena on Nov. 15, 2009, was won by a Thrashers team with quite a different look from the one playing that comes to Rexall Place on Saturday. None of the three stars of that game are currently with the team -- Slava Kozlov is in the KHL, Johan Hedberg is in New Jersey and Rich Peverley was traded to Boston on Thursday.
Big story -- Given how the Thrashers have dropped from playoff contenders to outsiders by losing 13 of 16 games, fans were getting anxious about the team getting some trade-deadline help. Let the debate begin, as Peverley, one of Atlanta's most dependable forwards, was packaged with minor-league defenseman Boris Valabik to the Bruins for forward Blake Wheeler and defenseman Mark Stuart. Both newcomers will try to help their team avoid their first five-game road losing streak in more than a year and keep pace with the eighth-seeded Hurricanes.
The Oilers are doing a good job of playing spoiler this week. They threw wrenches in both the Stars' and Canadiens' playoff drives works with 4-1 wins, and after a quick two-game road trip out to Minnesota and Colorado, welcome the Blues, Bruins, Predators and Blue Jackets -- all of whom are either maintaining position or trying to get back into their respective races.
Thrashers -- General Manager Rick Dudley was clear on his willingness to shake things up as the Thrashers nose-dived through the Eastern Conference standings, and he's made a move.
"What is most important for us is that it's a deal that will help us right now. We're in the playoff hunt," Dudley said on NHL Network's "Power Play" program. "It will also help us in the future. Both guys know our coach and it should be a pretty good match," referring to coach Craig Ramsay's prior tenure as a Boston assistant.
"We've liked these players for some time," he elaborated. "Blake is a 6-foot-5-inch guy who is very fast and also has skills. He can play all three forward positions and can play them very effectively. He was drafted as a center and big centers are hard to come by these days.
"Both can kill penalties, and our penalty kill needed a shot in the arm, so I hope they can help with that."
Oilers -- It's been almost a calendar year since the Oilers strung together three straight wins at Rexall Place, but with a pair of solid victories behind them, it doesn't look like an insurmountable task.
For now, coach Tom Renney well is OK with having his team play the role of spoiler.
"At the end of the day that's what we have right now, to play spoiler and continue to gain respect," he said after Thursday's victory. "Especially after the three games that preceded these two that have been well-chronicled as not being very good at home. We're a proud organization, and we want to represent Edmonton and our fans the way they'd like us to, and that means hard work, flat-out hard work, and showing up every night. So we want to make sure off of games like tonight we don't get so satisfied and so fat that we just stand around and watch the next team come in and play."
Not standing around very much at all lately is goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who has stopped 60 of 62 shots in the last two games to win back-to-back games after a personal 14-game losing streak.
Who's hot -- The Bulin Wall has shored up at the right time, of course, but so has Ales Hemsky, with 6 points in his last four games. Jordan Eberle has 8t points in eight games. … Tobias Enstrom and Andrew Ladd each have four points in their last four games for Atlanta. Ladd is the first Thrasher to reach the 20-goal mark this season, with a second-period score in Thursday's 4-3 loss to the Coyotes.
Injury report -- Thrashers defenseman Freddy Meyer (upper body) was placed on injured reserve Sunday, retroactive to Feb. 3. Forward Jim Slater (concussion) has missed 15 games so far with no return date set. Forward Alex Burmistrov (foot) went on IR Thursday after missing two games. … Other than defenseman Ryan Whitney's season-ending knee injury back in December, the Oilers have a clean bill of health.
Stat pack -- Khabibulin is 7-4-2 with a 2.71 GAA in 14 career starts against the Thrashers. Ondrej Pavelec has never faced the Oilers but is 0-3-1 with a 4.67 GAA in his last four road starts. … The Thrashers have not lost five in a row on the road since an 0-6-2 stretch from Dec. 16, 2009-Jan. 5, 2010. … Enstrom's two assists on Thursday tied Marian Hossa for third on the Thrashers' all-time assist list with 140 in 300 career games. … Atlanta's penalty kill is second-worst in the NHL at 76.5 percent. Only Edmonton is worse at 75.5 percent. With a man up, up, the Thrashers are a respectable eighth League-wide at 20.2 percent while the Oilers are also last at 11.8 percent.
Puck drop -- "If you get to the 28th and it stays tight then there might not be that many players available." -- Dudley on why waiting till the trade deadline to make a deal can be risky with so many teams still in contention
-- Matthew Mankiewich - NHL.com