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AT THE MORNING SKATE
The Edmonton Oilers play the fourth game in their five-game road trip tonight and it's another tough task as they take on the Western Conference's number-two seed, the Detroit Red Wings.
Although the team has started to slide a bit with losses in each of their last two games, Oilers head coach Tom Renney is confident in the team's ability to come out tonight with a solid bounce-back performance.
"I'm proud of this team. I don't care if this is game 1 or game 81. These guys have done everything they can to bounce back after tough games," said Renney. "Tonight's another opportunity to do that. They've been nothing but responsive to our coaching. We've really given them an opportunity to play and make a difference and we'll continue to do that until somebody turns out the lights and closes the door behind us."
The Oilers have to soldier on tonight without another one of their top scorers as Sam Gagner was lost to injury for the rest of the season.
"We can't dwell on that. The most unfortunate thing is Sam's hurt and he can't participate from this point on," Renney stated. "We've got 20 guys that can play and our objective is to go out there and give everything we can and beat Detroit tonight."
Devan Dubnyk gets the start in goal tonight after Nikolai Khabibulin played Washington on Wednesday.
BRULE IS BACK
Gilbert Brule will return to the lineup tonight for the Oilers after missing the first three games of this road trip with an illness.
"I feel ready. It feels like it's been forever, the last three games just sitting in hotels and being quarantined," said Brule following the morning skate.
"It's never fun when you're sitting in the hotel room watching from your bed and feeling sick."
Brule will skate alongside Linus Omark and Liam Reddox.
"Those guys work so hard, especially Reddox with his speed and Linus is so good at protecting the puck along the walls. I'm just going to have to find that space and get open because he's a good playmaker."
Brule knows that there's a tough task at hand tonight against the always-difficult Red Wings.
"I think we're going to have to frustrate them. The more we block them up and slow down their speed, if we slow that down I think that's going to creep into their game and they're going to get frustrated."
Yesterday, defenceman Jeff Petry was recalled from the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons and the timing couldn't have been any better.
The Farmington Hills, Michigan native gets the opportunity to play in the first game of his NHL career at Joe Louis Arena against the team he grew up cheering for.
"It's a great place for me to be called up," he said, noting that Nick Lidstrom was his favourite player growing up. "Getting a chance to play in front of the hometown crowd."
The 23-year-old blueliner, who has a goal and three points in 21 games with the Oilers this season, is lucky that his first stop on the trip is home because he didn't have time to grab a change of clothes after hearing about the call-up.
"I was in San Antonio for the day off and got the call later that night. Went to the rink, picked up my bag and flew out from there," said Petry. "It was a little different from the last time."
Although this is his first time in the NHL at Joe Louis Arena, the venue is a familiar one.
"Michigan State played here and I played (minor hockey) with Little Caesars, too."
HOW SWEDE IT IS
Oilers Linus Omark and Magnus Paajarvi have an opportunity tonight to go head-to-head against some of their Swedish heroes, including Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom.
"It's pretty cool," said Paajarvi of the opportunity to face off against them tonight. "Of course, I have to take that all away when I go on the ice but Detroit is the team you watch back home with all the Swedes."
"Forsberg was my biggest idol, but on this team it's Zetterberg," Omark said, talking about the player he watched closest growing up.
One trait that Paajarvi takes from his fellow Swedes is their work ethic. The Oilers rookie can often be found late on the ice after practice working on his skills, something Lidstrom and Zetterberg are known to do.
"You can learn so much from just watching them and just looking at all the details that they do. If you can try to train similar to them you have a good chance to become good."
"Every skilled player practices more on their skills than anyone else. That's why they're good."
Paajarvi's father, Gunnar Svensson is at the game tonight and is Zetterberg's agent.
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
Last 10: Edmonton 5-5-0; Detroit 4-4-2
Season Series: This is the final meeting of the four-game series between the Red Wings and Oilers. Detroit won the first three, each by two or more goals. Todd Bertuzzi scored twice in their last meeting on Jan. 4 to lead Detroit to a 5-3 victory at Rexall Place.
Big Story: The Wings have lost considerable ground in the Western Conference standings by dropping their last four games and now trail Vancouver by nine points in the race for first place in the West. The Oilers, playing the third of a four-game road trip, are at the bottom of the League standings with 54 points.
Oilers: After stringing together three straight wins, Edmonton has dropped its last two games, including a 5-0 drubbing in Washington on Wednesday night. The Oilers gave up two power-play goals in the second period and allowed three more goals in the third period.
"We did not manage the game well because we didn't manage the puck well." coach Tom Renney said. "This is one of those games you don't like talking about in March," he said. "I can see maybe the first half of year, but this is March now. I don't care who we're playing and how they're touted, the thing is we have to play our game and tonight we deviated in a big way from that. And that's disappointing."
Red Wings: The Wings were on a roll until a 2-1 overtime loss at Anaheim last Wednesday; since then, they've gone 0-2-2 -- their longest losing streak so far this season. Despite the four-game skid, Detroit still holds the second seed in the Western Conference.
The Wings dropped their third in a row at home when the Los Angeles Kings came to Joe Louis Arena and left with a 2-1 victory.
"I thought the third period was a muddy track, like you expected against a team that is checking and you're working and you're pushing," coach Mike Babcock said. "It was a tight game, we had every opportunity to win the game, we didn't find a way. We've just got to keep playing like that and starting like we did and getting pucks ahead and shooting pucks and going to the net."
Who's Hot: Darren Helm has 3 points in his last two games including Detroit's lone goal in Wednesday's contest. He's scored three times in Detroit's last five games and made him the 11th Wing to hit double figures.
Injury Report: Edmonton is without Sam Gagner (hand surgery), Taylor Hall (ankle) and Ryan Whitney (ankle) for the remainder of the season. Gagner was injured Wednesday night and had surgery Thursday to repair a cut tendon. Taylor Chorney (upper body), Ales Hemsky (shoulder) and Theo Peckham (head) are also out. … Defenseman Brian Rafalski remains day-to-day with a back injury for Detroit, and forward Patrick Eaves is still out with a lower-body injury. Goalie Chris Osgood is nearing a return from sports hernia surgery. The Wings recalled defenseman Doug Janik from AHL Grand Rapids in case Brad Stuart (ankle) isn't ready to go.
Stat Pack: Don't be surprised if the Wings end the night with more shots on goal. Detroit is third in the NHL with an average of 33.1 shots per game. The Oilers are next-to-last, averaging just 26.6 through 68 games.
Puck Drop: The Wings have dominated for long stretches during the last two games, but left with a 5-4 shootout loss at Phoenix and the 2-1 loss to the Kings. Defenseman Niklas Kronwall said Detroit can't continue having letdowns if it wants to win.
"We just have to keep going after them for 60 minutes," he said after the loss to L.A.." Right now we're not playing for 60 minutes -- and that's why we're losing."
- Deborah Francisco - NHL.com Staff Writer