- Following a 6-3 loss to the Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins one night ago at TD Garden, the Oilers hopped on the team's charter and darted to Detroit, landing and getting to bed at around 2:00am ET.
As such, the Oilers opted to hold a meeting at the team's downtown hotel prior to addressing the media.
BACK IN THE LINEUP
Tonight the Oilers look to rebound with a new lineup. Ben Eager
, who played 6:55 last night, recording a -2 rating and zero hits, will sit out. Magnus Paajarvi
, who's been a scratch in the Oilers' past two contests, will get back in to face a club (and opposing players) he grew up admiring.
"I'm excited to be back into the lineup," he said. "Just go out there and play."
That attitude is a must, considering the Oilers struggled to keep the game simple in a tough road barn last night. No. 91 is well prepared, and commented on the discussion he's been having with the group's bench boss on getting back in.
"We've been talking back and forth about small details," he said about his relationship with Head Coach Tom Renney. "It's been an ongoing dialogue, and there's always something you need to improve. It's been small details and I can't say one and I can't say 10. It's a lot of things."
Renney didn't divulge the details, but did comment on the player's obvious skill and attention to what he needs to do his better round out his game.
"He's got everything you want in a player," he said. "What needs now is an opportunity, again based on some feedback and an opportunity to watch and learn, and step up. That's all any player ever wants.
"If a player is struggling, they just want to make sure they get the opportunity to do something about it; and it's an opportunity that has to be earned."
The 20-year-old has registered a mere assist in 13 games so far this season, but agreed that his time in the press box can be considered an enlightening experience.
"It's part of the game," he explained. "I learned from last year when I was scratched. It didn't feel good at all, but this year I handled it a lot better. I know how it is and I know what it means. I feel a lot better coming into this scratch than last year for sure."
In terms of battling those goal-scoring demons, Paajarvi's approach to getting on the scoresheet tonight in Detroit is as simple as can be.
"Just do it."
The Swede's inclusion won't be the only change to tonight's roster. Andy Sutton
, who was suspended back on Oct. 28 for his illegal check to the head of Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog, makes his much-anticipated return to the lineup tonight.
"It was stretched out for what seemed like a long period of time, but I'm looking forward to getting back into the lineup," the 36-year-old said.
"It's always tough to watch, especially when the team's not doing well. It was good to see us get some wins, especially early. We've get a few things slide, in my opinion, in the last couple games and we need to shore up a couple issues and come out with a better performance tonight.
"That's the main thing for me," he added about the Oilers' puck management. "We need to do a better job of getting pucks moving quickly, and getting it behind their defence and getting on the forecheck. That was the key to our success early on."
According to the NHL scoresheet, the Oilers gave the puck away seven times vs. Boston; a miscalculation, perhaps, as the orange and blue struggled to maintain possession, allowing the opponent to generate scoring chances at will as a result.
"That's huge," Renney said. "So much of our success comes from being able to manage the puck appropriately; out-numbering people when we have it, out-numbering people when we don't, quickness to it, quickness from it, all those things; putting it in the right locations.
"When you see the best teams in the league doing it, it adds to the mystique of giving it up to get it back, and I think sometimes we have to understand the value of that.
"It's not rocket science."
Detroit, on the other hand, takes great pride in puck possession and can beat their opponents with a relentless attack. The key? Don't turn it over.
"They're probably one of the best in the league at it," said Paajarvi, who had a bird's eye view of the Oilers' struggle one night ago. "Turnovers are so crucial right now. Everybody is skating back so hard and as soon as you get a turnover, you have people taking advantage. It's a big part of the game right now."
"They do have a lot of quick guys that dart around; they change lanes a lot and cross over, so we've got to have some good communication and hold our lanes and keep tight gaps, and obviously have good awareness of where guys are," Sutton added. "They're not necessarily a north-south team, so we've got to have our head on a swivel for sure.
"Everything's building towards the post-season, and you have to use the depth of your team to combat the great teams, so we're well prepared for that tonight."
Sutton will skate in Cam Barker
's place, who traveled home to Edmonton this morning with an injured ankle. The 25-year-old blueliner was wearing a walking boot last night.
(7-0-2, 0.98 goals-against average and .964 save percentage) gets the call between the pipes as the Oilers look to improve to 3-2-0 on the current six-game road trip.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com
- Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
Edmonton 7-2-1, Detroit 4-5-1
This is the first meeting of four between the Red Wings and Oilers this season. Detroit swept a four-game season series last season.
Two hot Western Conference teams will go head to head on Friday night as the Red Wings host the Oilers. The Red Wings are looking to build on a two-game win streak while the Oilers are hoping to finish a six-game road trip above .500. Silencing Johan Franzen
will be key for Edmonton if they hope to bounce the Red Wings on home ice.
The Oilers are four games into a six-game road trip and so far they are 2-2 after a hard-fought 6-3 loss to the Bruins on Thursday night. After coming back to tie the score in the first period, the Oilers allowed two goals in the second period and two more in the third. The Oilers' downfall in the contest, according to head coach Tom Renney, was turnovers:
" Turnovers, turnovers, flat out turnovers…we've even got veteran players turning pucks over," Renney said. "The only reason you get the start you do is because you manage the puck well. We got ourselves back into the game and we needed to continue that."
But the Oilers hardly have time to sit and think about the loss as they face the Red Wings on Friday. Even with the loss to the defending Stanley Cup Champions, the Oilers still sit atop the Northwest Division with 20 points in 15 games.
"This whole road trip was a really good measuring stick for us," Taylor Hall
said. "We're .500 right now, and we could be a lot better. There are parts of our game that we need to fix, and we showed that tonight...Whether you're in Detroit or Chicago, these are good teams, if you let up on the gas pedal for two minutes or even five minutes, they are going to capitalize on it."
Detroit certainly snapped out of a funk this week, tallying ten goals in two games after a six-game winless streak in which it only scored six times. With two big wins this week, the Red Wings are looking as potent as ever with Franzen leading the charge.
Franzen has tallied three points in each of the Red Wings' last two games, including a hat trick against the Avalanche in the Red Wings' 5-2 win in Colorado. This victory followed a 5-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday night.
"We've been more relaxed since scoring the first two goals against Anaheim," Franzen said. "It seemed like the whole team got a load off our shoulders and we started to play better. We have the skill, but we had a lack of confidence."
It would seem their confidence is coming back, which is a welcome sight in Hockeytown as the Red Wings host the red-hot Oilers on Friday night.
"It's a step in the right direction," Mike Babcock said. "Our best players have come to life. It was just a matter of time."
Who's Hot: Johan Franzen
boasts a team-best 13 points this season, with six points in his last two contests (four goals, two assists). … Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
is living up to expectations in Edmonton, boasting a team-best 13 points with four points in his last five outings (two goals, two assists).
Injury Report: Patrick Eaves
has missed the last three games with a sore back and is his status for Friday is unknown. … For Edmonton, defenseman Ryan Whitney
(knee) is out.
Edmonton has allowed the most goals per game with 1.80 while Detroit is ranked 9th in GA/G with 2.38.
"We've been playing fairly decent as of late," said Ryan Smyth
, who tallied a pair of goals after Thursday's loss to Boston. "We have to put this one behind us. When you lose games like the way we did, we have to learn how to play a full 60 minutes, whether it's against the Boston Bruins or the Detroit Red Wings