- With a 1-2-1 record on the team's current homestand, the Oilers know the next two games are vital to salvage points and respectability as one of the league's top squads at home.
Assigned with that task between the pipes will be 25-year-old sophomore Devan Dubnyk
, who will be making his 10th start of the season tonight, looking to improve on his 2.90 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.
"We've been great on home ice this year, but this last little stretch hasn't been our best," said the netminder who's notched a 4-5-0 record in 10 games this year. "We've shown some signs as we usually do, but lucky for us this is a longer homestand and we really need to establish ourselves on home ice. We need to salvage this one and then be ready for when we come back."
Dubnyk began the season as the Oilers' starting goaltender, but then passed the reigns to Nikolai Khabibulin
as the 38-year-old veteran stepped up with a rebound start to the 2011-12 campaign.
"It's good," Dubnyk said of his mindset heading into tonight. "For the most part all year I've been pretty good. When I've gotten the opportunity to go, I've been ready; and when you get a chance to play and win a game, you try to build on that as much as you can.
"I've been feeling good and I'm excited to get the opportunity tonight," he added. "With the schedule we have, I was looking to get in one game at least this week, and now it looks like I might get two with the back-to-backs coming up."
Carolina rolled through Calgary last night, losing 7-6 in a barnburner and will be eager to back in the win column tonight. They've established an 8-17-4 record, but still possess several dangerous weapons to pose a threat to most anyone.
But they're still without a win under newly hired head coach Kirk Muller.
"We see them once a year, and they gave it to us last year in Carolina (losing 7-1 on Nov. 9, 2010)," Dubnyk said. "That was a long time ago, but we need to prepared. I know they lost last night, but they scored six goals. I played with Skinner at the Worlds and he's a hell of a player, so he's a guy we've got to be aware of and key on out there.
"They've got some weapons, but I think for the most part, we need to stick to our game; be ready for the opponent, but the best way to do that is to play our game and use our speed."
"I watched them play on TV last night in Calgary and they were working really hard," added Anton Lander
, who will be back in the lineup tonight after missing the past two games with a hand injury. "They were down 6-3 and worked back into the game. We have to be ready for a hardworking team, with those skilled players they have up front.
"We have to get pucks to the net more. It all starts with solid play in our own end and when we do that, we can turn up ice and start the transition game. When you play good D, the other part of the game comes naturally. I think we've worked on these things in practice lately and we'll be good to go tonight."
Although the Hurricanes last played at Rexall Place on Feb. 1, 2010 when the Oilers came out with a 4-2 win, there's a much more vivid memory still present within the orange and blue's locker room.
The Oilers conquered three clubs en route to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006, losing in Game 7 to the Hurricanes by a 3-1 count in a devastating conclusion. Ryan Smyth
, who posted seven goals and 16 points in 24 post-season contests that spring, remembers the series well.
"I was talking with Horc (Shawn Horcoff
) today about it on the ice," No. 94 said. "It's still in the back of our minds. It was our chance to win a Cup, but now it's all about another opportunity and nothing lies in front of us but these guys.
"It's still a bitter taste, you know," he added, with a sad smirk. "It's every hockey player's dream to win a Stanley Cup, but only one team wins it.
"We weren't the better team. They won. We move on."
Head Coach Tom Renney was invested in the series, too, as an observer.
"Just watching Carolina, I thought that they had a very good transition game and their D men were very, very active in the attack," he said. "They wanted to counter-attack and do it with speed and numbers. They had very good goaltending and so did Edmonton.
"I thought [the Oilers] really could have won the series."
As stated above, Anton Lander
will be slotted back into the lineup tonight alongside Lennart Petrell
and Ben Eager
, who will also be making his return after sitting out three games with a lingering back problem.
For a complete look at the Oilers' lineup, as well as combinations/pairings, CLICK HERE
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com
- Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
: Carolina 2-7-1; Edmonton 4-5-1.
: This is the only meeting of the season between the teams. In their lone meeting last season on November 7, then-rookie Jeff Skinner led Carolina to a 7-1 hammering of Edmonton with a goal and two assists at the RBC Center.
: Two teams coming off respective losses to Calgary are looking for momentum against an unfamiliar opponent. The Oilers come in refreshed after three days rest and will be looking to atone for a stretch in which they've won just once in five games. Carolina meets them in their second of a grueling three-game, four-day Western Canada swing – a day after coming up just short in a 7-6 loss to Calgary.
: Carolina lost its sixth straight – and fourth since inserting new coach Kirk Muller behind the bench – when Calgary prevailed 7-6 Tuesday night. If anything, that scoreline flattered the 'Canes. Two goals in the final minute – and four in the third period – smacked of the desperation the 'Canes have been feeling over a stretch in which they've won just three of 17. Above all, however, Muller was pleased with the way his team fought back.
"No one is going to feel sorry for us," Muller said. "We scored six, which shows the guys didn't quit. They pushed each other. If they keep doing this, we'll get through this."
: The Oil hasn't played since Saturday, when it lost 5-3 to Calgary at home. With that loss, Edmonton has now dropped four of its last five. The Oilers just ended a run of 10 games in 13 days, including three back-to-back affairs, and the wear showed Saturday, as two late Flames' goals were the difference. When asked about the demanding schedule in his Tuesday press conference, coach Tom Renney couldn't help but place guilt on the grind.
"I think that's had a lot to do with it," Renney said of the grueling schedule. "I think that's kicked the crap out of us, I think it's kicked the crap out of a young team and we've got to find a way to overcome that."
: Eric Staal scored two goals and added an assist against Calgary, giving him three tallies and four helpers in his past five games. Could the 'Canes captain finally be finding his groove?
: Centers Shawn Horcoff
(bruised ribs) and Anton Lander
(infected hand), as well as winger Ben Eager
(sore back) are probable for Wednesday's game. Forward Taylor Hall
is on injured reserve and will miss 2-4 weeks with a left shoulder injury. Defensemen Corey Potter
(sprained ankle – 1 month) and Cam Barker
(left ankle surgery – 3 months) are also out. … Backup goalie Brian Boucher (lower body) and defenseman Jay Harrison (upper body) missed Tuesday's game against Calgary, while defenseman Joni Pitkanen left the game with an upper-body injury.
: If Edmonton's offense plays anywhere near its potential – and with rest, there is little doubt Nugent-Hopkins & Co. will create chances – Carolina could be in serious trouble. As a team, the 'Canes allow a League-worst 3.41 goals per game, and former Conn Smythe winner Cam Ward is 38th in GAA (3.29) and 36th in save percentage (.898).
: "I think that fourth goal was a killer on us tonight but they had two choices, quit or keep battling and they did. When you're going through this, as long as they're working hard and the attitude's in it and they're pushing each other, then that's the ground work you've got to keep building on." – Kirk Muller on the Hurricanes' resilience, despite their 0-4-0 record in four games since he took over