Who's in, who's out and who's starting in goal. Those vital game-day questions were answered at Saturday's morning skate.
, who's missed all but one pre-season match in 2011-12, makes his return tonight vs. New York. 24-year-old Linus Omark
, held pointless through six games with a -2 rating, will be relegated to the press box.
It's expected that Gagner will slot in alongside Magnus Paajarvi
and Eric Belanger
. No. 89 will play on the right wing, where he's had success in past seasons.
During the team's miraculous run in 2007-08 when the Oilers came within three points of a post-season berth, Gagner scored 16 points in the final 18 games on a line with Robert Nilsson and centre Andrew Cogliano.
"I have, as a matter of fact," Head Coach Tom Renney said when asked about putting Gagner on the wing. "I've had good visits with him and actually talked to a former coach of his. There's where we're going to put him tonight."
With the Oilers having scored a mere 10 goals this season, this morning's hot topic was the Oilers' sputtering attack.
"You can't forget about our defence," Paajarvi said when asked about what was needed to boost scoring. "Our defence has been good. We've been back-checking hard, and that's why we've been able to be in the games all the time.
"We've got to work on [scoring], but we can't forget about our defence, because that's one thing that's so much better than last year."
, who's been a big part of the Oilers' solid own-zone game, having accrued 20 blocked shots (ranked in the NHL's Top 5) on the season, also stands by the team's rock-solid play, but believes there needs to be a greater emphasis on generating an up-ice attack.
"I think we're balanced," he explained. "I don't think we're sitting too far back. I think we're aggressive and have created some chances; it's just not going in right now, so hopefully we can turn it around and start scoring more goals.
"For us as a team, I think it's more important that we don't allow as many goals and make it as easy as possible on our goalies. In previous seasons, they had to make 40 saves every game to give us a chance to help us win some games.
Smid, along with Ryan Whitney
, Cam Barker
, Andy Sutton
, Tom Gilbert
and Corey Potter
, have promised a better return. The group has combined to record four points (a pair each from Gilbert and Potter), but wants to help out as much as possible.
"When we have meetings with the coaches, that's what they want us to do: move the puck quicker and support the offence," Smid said. "It's not that one D man is going to go end-to-end to score a goal. We have to move it quickly and jump up in the attack and you never know; you can create some chances."
Gilbert, the Oilers' lone goal-scorer from this past Tuesday's 2-1 loss in Calgary, agreed.
"I think the more you squeeze your stick when it comes to offence, the harder it actually gets," he said. "We've been getting a lot of chances, but just haven't been burying them. I think if we continue to keep playing solid across the board, our chances will come and we'll start scoring some more.
"We've got to bear down on those opportunities; on odd-man rushes, in-zone setups and even on broken plays. When that comes, and it will, we'll have success."
Last season, the Oilers and Rangers met once at Madison Square Garden in New York. The home side drubbed the orange and blue by an 8-2 score, in the process making enemies as Sean Avery sucker-punched Ladislav Smid
; a total of 154 minutes in penalties were assessed, too, in the late-game melee.
"It's behind me, it's in the past and I'm looking forward to this game," Smid said. "I think everybody can make a picture about [Avery]; he's not in the lineup this year and it doesn't matter to me anymore.
"That was a really bad game," he added. "We played really poorly and the score was 8-2. It was a terrible game, but this one is in our building and we don't want to slide on a losing streak, so hopefully we can get a big W."
Gilbert came to Smid's aide that evening, tussling with New York's Michael Del Zotto along the benches as Avery was escorted to the locker room. He, too, insists that 2011-12 is a new season and that there's no bad blood spilling into this once-a-year matchup.
"I don't think so," he said when asked if there was any extra motivation heading into tonight's contest. "I think that was a different story last year; we were in a bit of a slump and the team wasn't playing as well as we wanted to. I think, overall, we're in a better place this season.
"You take what you learned from last year and the experience you had, and you don't want it to happen again. We're more focused on the way that we want to play and the way we've been playing. That's more important and that's how we're approaching this one."
Up to this point, Nikolai Khabibulin
and Devan Dubnyk
have split the action, playing in three games each in the Oilers' first six matches. The ‘tender carousel will come to an end tonight, as No. 35 will granted a second consecutive start between the pipes.
Can't argue with the coach's call. Khabibulin has posted a 1-0-2 record, along with a league-best (among netminders with more than one game played) 0.96 goals-against average and .962 save percentage.
"I thought he was good the other night," Renney said. "I liked the way he played, I like where he is mentally, but I wouldn't read too much into it beyond him starting tonight."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
First and only meeting. In last year's lone matchup, the Rangers won 8-2 at Madison Square Garden. The game featured a hat trick from Marian Gaborik, five fights and a total of 154 penalty minutes between the teams.
Everyone knows the Oilers are a team loaded with young talent, with an average age of 26.76. But it might come as a surprise to learn the Rangers are actually the younger team in this matchup with an average age of 26.68. Both sides are trying to take off after middling starts to the season.
When the Rangers left for their Western Canadian trip, they were struggling in a major way. They lost twice in Europe and again back in the States against the Islanders. But they exploded for four third-period goals in the third period of Tuesday's 4-0 win against the Canucks and earned a dramatic OT victory Thursday against the Flames when Ryan McDonagh scored with less than 2 seconds remaining.
Henrik Lundqvist made 33 saves in the win and has stopped 73 of 75 shots the past two games. Perhaps Martin Biron will make his first appearance of the season against the Oilers, but it wouldn't be surprising to see coach John Tortorella go back to his No. 1 goalie yet again.
"He's just a world-class athlete," McDonagh said of Lundqvist. "He gave us every chance possible to win this game."
While the Rangers are coming off a stirring victory thanks to a late-game goal, the Oilers were victims of one against the Wild on Thursday.
Less than two seconds from a win, Dany Heatley tied the game just before the end of regulation. The Wild went on to win in a shootout and steal a point from the Oilers.
"I thought we played well, but it came down to tenths of seconds," coach Tom Renney said. "I have nothing but confidence in this team. They're a pleasure to coach because they want badly to do the right thing."
Obviously, Lundqvist has been great, but Gaborik has goals in three straight games while McDonagh has 2 goals and 2 assists as the Rangers try to get by without their No. 1 defenseman, Marc Staal, to start the season. … No. 1 pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
has been living up to the hype, leading the Oilers with 5 points (4 goals) in six games.
Besides Staal, defenseman Michael Sauer (shoulder) and forward Wojtek Wolski (groin) have been banged up of late. … Oilers left wing Darcy Hordichuk
(knee) is out.
By beating the Canucks and Flames, the Rangers ended losing streaks in those cities dating to 1997 and 2002, respectively. That won't be the case in Edmonton, where they won in 2009.
"You feel excited about getting the two points. More importantly I thought we -- through most of the game -- played better as a team." -- Tortorella after the Rangers beat the Flames