- I guess you could say there's some added incentive this time around. As the Oilers embark on the second night of a back-to-back set, the team opted to forego the morning skate, holding an 11:00am meeting before addressing the media at Rexall Place.
is slated to get his 18th start of the season tonight, looking to improve on his 9-5-3 record, 1.88 goals-against average and .935 save percentage.
As the Oilers and Flames prepare to battle in the season's second installment of the Battle of Alberta, the home side's locker room intends to silence critics.
Prior to the season at a Calgary event, Flames GM Jay Feaster blasted the Oilers' rebuilding plans with a stern comment that, it appears, has rattled the orange and blue; not to a dangerous degree, however:
"They're wandering the desert. And they're no closer to getting out than they were 10 years ago." - September, 2011
Words can hurt. Or motivate.
"I'm aware of it," said defenceman Ryan Whitney
, regarding Calgary's early-season struggle (recording a 10-12-2 record and sitting 13th in the West). "I'm also aware of when Feaster took a shot at us at the beginning of the year. It's a pretty easy game to get up for because of the way he talked about us, and how poorly we've been doing the last couple years.
"It seems like the tide's starting to turn a little bit."
, who recorded a hat trick in last night's third-period outburst, agreed with his teammate's assessment but was mum in details.
"I did see them," he said of Feaster's lambasting. "Sports are emotional and sometimes people say things that they really don't mean to say, and they get taken out of context. I'm not sure if that's what happened with those comments, but it's hard for me to say.
"Dot dot dot."
Head Coach Tom Renney was aware of his competitor's comments, too, but backed Jones' statement of hockey mending an emotional backdrop.
"Jay's a good guy," he said. "He's a pro, he's doing his job. We haven't talked brought it up at all [in the locker room, as group]."
THE BATTLE COMMENCES
Who's that guy named Ryan Jones
? He scored three goals last night, netting a hat trick as the Oilers hemmed the Blue Jackets by a commanding 6-3 score. The 27-year-old recorded 18 goals in 81 games last year, but is already at the midway mark to that total this season, a mere 26 games in.
All told, he's registered 14 points in 2011-12 and showing no signs of slowing down.
"It was big," he said of the Oilers' come-from-behind win last night. "Columbus is a hard-working team that really took advantage of some mistakes that we were making throughout the game; but we went out in the third, played hard and played the game we knew we could play, and got the win."
"I'm continuing to do what got me success last year," Jones added about his impressive three-goal outing last night and nine-goal season total. "I've said it all along: when you go to the net, you're going to score goals. It's a bit of a lost art in the NHL these days, but the guys that do it well continue to score."
On the backend, Whitney has now played in nine games this season, posting one assist and a -2 rating as he works his way back into the routine. The 28-year-old is eager to put the boots to the visitors tonight, citing last night's late-game surge as a reasonable point of optimism.
"Tonight will be a tougher test, playing back-to-back games against a real desperate team. It's a rivalry, but I think we can beat anyone."
"Our game last night for two periods was a really good practice," Renney added with a smirk. "We had the game in the third period, so we're ready."
Scoring one goal and adding an assist in last night's win, Ales Hemsky
had a strong third period that helped propel the Oilers to victory. Buoyed by a hit on Columbus' Fedor Tyutin, the 28-year-old was rolling; but there's still some untapped potential that needs to be reached.
"His shoulders are much stronger than they've been," Renney said. "What he does now have to do is make the decision to shoot. Once he starts to do that and has success, he'll feel much more comfortable with his ability to carry on.
"He really has to understand that he's as capable a shooter as we have."
"It's nice," Hemsky added, recalling the crowd's explosion when he crunched the Blue Jackets. "I can't do it all the time because of my shoulder, but if I can do it, I'll do it."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com
- Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
Last 10: Calgary 4-5-1; Edmonton 4-5-1
Season Series: This is the second edition of the Battle of Alberta this season. The Flames won 2-1 in Calgary on Oct. 18 by scoring twice in the third period. The teams meet again next week at Scotiabank Saddledome.
Big Story: The Oilers have spent the last few seasons looking up at their provincial rivals. Not so this season -- the Flames come to Rexall Place outside the top eight in the West, while the Oilers are a surprising seventh.
Flames: The Flames won back-to-back games and were less than six minutes away from a third straight win before falling 4-3 to the Columbus Blue Jackets in a shootout on Thursday night.
The lost point still bothered the Flames a day later.
"We're a team that's trying to build some momentum and we can't be giving away points," defenseman Chris Butler told CalgaryFlames.com on Friday. "It's nice to get one, but those are games we have to nail down a win."
Oilers: The floodgates opened in Edmonton on Friday night when the Oilers snapped a three-game losing streak with a five-goal third period to best the Jackets 6-3. Edmonton youngsters continue to prove potent as sophomore Ryan Jones notched his first career hat trick in the victory.
"It feels amazing, it's really hard to explain," Jones said.
The win moved the Oilers into a tie for seventh place in the West. Play to win was the message the Tom Renney conveyed to his players between the second and third period, and his team did exactly that by lighting up the Jackets for five goals.
"It shows that they are willing to take the responsibility for this season," Renney said. "All the good and bad that goes with it, and battling through adversity goes with it. It gives you more resolve and it gives you more arrows in your quiver. You learn how to do things. You learn how to win hockey games and that's really, really important."
Who's Hot: Edmonton's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, a repeat winner as rookie of the month, had an assist Friday to increase his rookie-leading point total to 28. He has four points in Edmonton's last three games.
Injury Report: The Flames are without defenseman Anton Babchuk (hand) and forward David Moss while the Oilers are missing forwards Taylor Hall (shoulder) and Ben Eager (back), as well as defenseman Corey Potter (ankle).
Stat Pack: The Oilers boast an NHL-best 27.8 percent on the power play at home, while the Flames are 22.9 percent with the man-advantage on the road.
Puck Drop: You can bet that Miikka Kiprusoff will be in goal for the Flames when they step onto the Rexall Center ice. Kiprusoff is 11-1-0 with a 2.29 goals-against average in his last 12 starts against the Oilers. He'll have to stop Nugent-Hopkins, who seems to save his best efforts for when the Oilers play the late game on CBC's "Hockey Night in Canada." Nugent-Hopkins already has a hat trick and a five-assist night on HNIC.