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AT THE MORNING SKATE
After taking three days to rest and refocus between games, the Oilers got back in game-day mode with morning skate at Rexall Place.
With nine players on the injured list, the crew of healthy Oilers was reinforced with three timely additions: Chris Vande Velde, Ryan O'Marra, and Alexandre Giroux.
Read the press release
The forwards participated in Oklahoma City's battle vs. the Grand Rapids Griffins last night (their second game in as many nights) before hopping on Oilers' owner Daryl Katz's private jet for a speedy flight to Edmonton.
"The boys were all joking around that we were going to take a private jet and I thought they were all just chirping me, and the next thing I know I get an email from our general manager down there saying you're going to the private airport," O'Marra recalled. "It's a heck of a lot better than flying commercial and a heck of a lot better than taking an overnight bus, which I'm very much used to."
Head coach Tom Renney commended the transportation solution, which allowed the trio play for the Barons, get a good night's sleep, and take morning skate with the Oil.
"It shows that we care about our players and the situation OK-City is in," he said. "I thought it was a very, very professional move by our organization to take care of these athletes as best they could under those circumstances."
Although the private jet was a treat, the real thrill for the call-ups will come tonight. With one call-up each earlier this season, O'Marra and Giroux can draw upon past NHL experiences when they face the Coyotes.
"My contract's up this year. I'm looking to compete and show them I deserve another one and I deserve another look," O'Marra said.
Vande Velde, on the other hand, will make his NHL debut tonight.
"Obviously it's very exciting and I'm just blessed that I have the opportunity to be up here," the 24-year-old centre said. "It's going to be amazing. I'll probably have a little nerves but that's expected. I'm just happy I'm here. I'm ready to go."
With much of his offensive firepower watching from the sidelines, Renney hopes the call-ups make energetic and positive contributions tonight.
"If they can help us win some draws and get some possession off whatever the circumstance might be, I think that's good for us," he said. "I think beyond that, it's just real good puck management, making sure that we don't turn pucks over, that we do keep things moving forward in whatever matter that they possibly can."
Although tonight's contest will mark three games in three nights for all three players, as well as four games in five nights for Giroux, Renney doesn't think fatigue will be a factor.
"If their energy seems to be dissipating or whatever, we'll work around that. My guess is that they'll give us everything they possibly can. . . Adrenaline's a wonderful thing."
On the ice, the line combinations will be as follows:
Jones - Cogliano - Eberle
Omark - Fraser - Paajarvi
Giroux - O'Marra - Reddox
MacIntyre - Vande Velde - Hartikainen
-- Jen Sharpe, edmontonoilers.com
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Last 10: Phoenix 4-4-2; Edmonton 4-5-1
Season Series: This is the fourth and final meeting between these two teams. The Coyotes won once in regulation and once in the shootout, while the Oilers took the most recent game with a 4-3 victory in regulation at Phoenix on Jan. 25. Phoenix has won the last two games at Rexall Place.
Big Story: The Coyotes appear primed for a playoff push with their current three-game winning streak. They have also earned at least one point in five straight games and can position themselves within the top half of the Western Conference standings with a victory on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Oilers are currently the only team in the NHL mathematically eliminated from playoff contention and so they will aim to do their part in spoiling Phoenix's postseason chances.
Coyotes: Phoenix continued its climb up the West standings with a 4-3 win at fellow playoff competitor Calgary on Tuesday. While defenseman Rostislav Klesla returned from missing two games after getting hit in the face with a shot on March 8 and fellow blueliner Keith Yandle scored a goal to move into first place among the NHL's defensive scoring leaders with 57 points, the Coyotes nearly surrendered their 4-1 third-period lead. Luckily, goalie Ilya Bryzgalov stepped up with a number of big saves in the closing minutes to earn the win for Phoenix.
Oilers: With a depleted lineup due to a rash of injuries, Edmonton struggled in its most recent game with a 5-1 loss at Pittsburgh on Sunday. After beginning their five-game road trip with an impressive 5-1 win at Colorado on Mar. 5, the Oilers went on to lose their next four road games by a combined score of 16-3. Two straight home games beginning Thursday would usually mean a better chance at grabbing a few victories to close out the season, but Edmonton is 12-19-4 at Rexall Place, compared to its 11-19-5 record on the road this season.
Who's Hot: Coyotes captain Shane Doan is in the midst of a five-game points streak with 3 goals and 4 assists over that span. Bryzgalov has won three straight for Phoenix and four of his last five games overall. … Ryan Jones notched the Oilers' lone goal on Sunday and will look to extend his goal-scoring streak to three games.
Injury Report: For Phoenix, Martin Hanzal (lower body) is listed as day-to-day, while defenseman Ed Jovanovski is on injured reserve following orbital bone surgery. … For the Oilers, forwards Taylor Hall (ankle), and Sam Gagner (hand) and defenseman Ryan Whitney (ankle) are all out for the season. Still a few weeks away are defenseman Taylor Chorney (knee) and forward Ales Hemsky (shoulder). Defenseman Theo Peckham remains listed as day-to-day with a concussion, but skated in Wednesday morning's practice. Center Shawn Horcoff appeared to injure his foot blocking a shot against Pittsburgh on Sunday. Finally, coach Tom Renney reported Tuesday that forward Jean-Francois Jacques (foot) is also hurting and unlikely to play Thursday.
Stat Pack: With the preservation of its third-period lead over the Flames on Tuesday, Phoenix improved to 28-2-2 when leading in the final period of regulation.
Puck Drop: Coyotes coach Dave Tippett has been seeing nothing but good things from his team recently and is impressed with how they have been turning it up towards the stretch run.
"I like the way our guys are working. They're working real hard and playing a pretty smart game," Tippett told reporters following Tuesday's win. "Right now we're getting a couple bounces here and there, but our team is working hard for those bounces."
-- Eric Goodman - NHL.com Staff Writer