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AT THE MORNING SKATE
After two days without action, the Edmonton Oilers get back at it tonight as they kick off the eastern portion of their five-game road swing.
The Flyers sit second in the entire NHL while the Oilers sit in second last but the two teams have been going in opposite directions as of late. Edmonton has won each of its last three games - including a decisive 5-1 win on Saturday night against the Colorado Avalanche.
Philadelphia is coming off a demoralizing 7-0 loss to the New York Rangers on Sunday. It was their fourth loss in a row.
"It could be 10 in a row for me, I don't care. This is a very, very good hockey team that's well coached. They're intense from the back of the bench out, there's no question about that," said Oilers head coach Tom Renney after the morning skate.
"We really have to be ready tonight. They're obviously going to try and right themselves against us. We have to use these opportunities against these types of teams to see where we are. We hope that it results in a win so we know we're that much closer to running with these guys."
Tonight's game also presents an opportunity for the Oilers to face a team that has had a long-standing identity.
"They have an identity. Maybe some seasons it's not where they would like it to be but they always seem to work on that," Renney commented. "The Philadelphia Flyers have a personality and they draft and acquire players to match that personality."
It's certainly beneficial for the Oilers to take on a team with an identity as that's exactly what they have been striving for throughout this rebuilding process.
"With us, we want to create an identity. We want to do exactly the same thing so if someone's out we just place them in and away we go."
Devan Dubnyk gets the start in goal for the third straight game tonight for the Oilers. Although he has played in the arena before - against the AHL Phantoms several years ago - it will be his first go-around against the Flyers.
"It's definitely going to be a challenge," said Dubnyk. "They've had a little bit of a struggle the last few games but we certainly know that turns around really quick."
"For us, we're taking it as a challenge every game to build our identity and continue to go. We've been doing a pretty good job of that lately. It's a pretty good time for us to step up against a team that has a good lineup and see what we can do against them."
Dubnyk has been very good on the road this season for the Oilers with a 7-3-3 record, 2.62 goals-against average and .924 save percentage.
The visitors room in the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia brings back some great memories for Oilers centre Colin Fraser.
"It's not too long ago that we won in this very room," said Fraser, who did not play in that final game. "I was around afterwards for the festivities and it's obviously something I'll never forget."
Some of Fraser's memories also includes the crazy Flyers fans he had to put up with.
"It really is unbelievable. A lot of office staff and scratched players we had our own suite upstairs that they'd given us. Fans on both sides of each suite leaning over the glass, screaming at us and yelling at us. It's something else but that's what makes it fun," he said.
LAST ROADIE FOR ROD
Tonight marks the final road game in the career of Rod Phillips as the Rod's Classics series comes to a close. Renney had some kind words for the Hall-of-Fame broadcaster.
"It's been a great career. Even as a younger coach - and even as a player because Rod is 165 years old - I certainly remember Rod's voice coming across the airwaves there," said Renney. "He's one of those guys, you do relate to the voices of these play-by-play people. It's been a great career. He's an awfully good man and underneath all that controversy is an Oiler, too. I like that part best."
It's fitting that Rod's final road game is in Philadelphia, across the parking lot from where the Spectrum once stood. The Oilers had some great battles against the Flyers over the years, most notably in the 1985 and 1987 Stanley Cup Finals.
Game Preview and old Spectrum memories with Jack Michaels and Rod Phillips
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
Last 10: Edmonton 7-3-0; Philadelphia 4-5-1
Season Series: This is the only time these teams will play this season. In their lone meeting last season, former Flyer Ryan Potulny scored a power-play goal with 17 seconds left to give the Oilers a 1-0 win in Edmonton. Jeff Deslauriers stopped all 33 Philadelphia shots.
Big Story: The Flyers are playing their worst hockey of the season, having lost four straight, capped by Sunday's 7-0 shellacking by the Rangers. Their leads in the Eastern Conference and Atlantic Division have shrunk considerably, and if they weren't a desperate team before, they should be now.
Oilers: Saturday's 5-1 defeat of the Colorado Avalanche was a bit of a milestone for Edmonton. Not only was it their third straight victory, but it moved them to 29th in the League standings.
Jumping out of last in the standings might hurt their chances at the 2011 Entry Draft lottery, but the players certainly don't feel that way.
"Everyone talks about getting that (first) pick again," center Sam Gagner told the Edmonton Journal, "but we’ve had enough of that. We got that last year when we got (first pick Taylor Hall). We want to show we're capable ... and maybe on paper these games might not seem that important, but they are for us in here to establish an identity and continue to move forward as a group.
"I know one thing -- if we continue to move up in the standings, it's going to be a very good feeling in this room. That's our mindset going forward."
Flyers: With a four-game losing streak and a minor flu bug going around the locker room, coach Peter Laviolette ordered his players to stay away from the rink Monday, with the hope that a full day off will be enough to recharge their batteries.
Laviolette said Monday that three days of grueling practices last week, followed by three games in four days -- all losses -- may have tired his team out.
"You need to look no further than me," he told reporters Monday. "I'm the guy that gives them the time off and the time on."
Who's Hot: Flyers forward Kris Versteeg has 3 goals in his last three games and looks to be forming some chemistry with linemate Mike Richards. … Gagner has a three-game point-scoring streak, totaling 2 goals and 3 assists in that span.
Injury Report: Laviolette said forward Jeff Carter, who has missed two of the last three games with the flu, will be in the lineup Tuesday. … Hall (ankle) and defenseman Ryan Whitney (ankle) are out for the season. Forward Ales Hemsky is out 2-3 weeks with a shoulder injury. Defenseman Theo Peckham is out with a concussion and forward Gilbert Brule is questionable with an illness.
Stat Pack: The Oilers are unbeaten in seven straight against the Flyers (six wins, one tie), a stretch that goes back to March 19, 2001. It's been more than 10 years since the Oilers last lost in Philadelphia -- Nov. 9, 2000.
Puck Drop: After Sunday's 7-0 loss to the Rangers -- termed "a beat down and a half" by Richards -- Flyers defenseman Chris Pronger said it didn't seem like all the players were on the same page.
Richards said the distance could be even greater.
"Different chapter, maybe," he said.
-- Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Staff Writer