- "[Detroit has] a veteran lineup that does a lot of good things," Head Coach Tom Renney said. "They make you play poorly or really well, so we're obviously hoping for the latter.
"It's a great challenge for us, we're looking forward to it."
The Oilers come into tonight's game having lost three straight, all on the road, as the club returns home to Rexall Place sporting a below .500 record and a 12th place standing in the NHL's Western Conference.
The orange and blue's latest outing saw them come closer, dropping a 3-2 decision to a perennial powerhouse in the San Jose Sharks; but the assignments don't get any easier, as the Red Wings' 20-10-1 record presents another daunting opponent ahead on the Oilers' quick two-game homestand.
"I think we played better last game," said Sam Gagner
who, on a personal note, has been producing much more as well, scoring three goals and 12 points in 25 games this season. "We were a little loose and making plays, and I think that's important for us.
"We've got a young team and we need to stay focused on being solid defensively and not turning the puck over, but at the same time, we've got to play loose and enjoy ourselves out there, and make plays with each other. I thought we did that last game; and while we didn't get rewarded with a win, sometimes you lose one you shouldn't prior to going on a big winning streak.
"Tonight's a big night for us and we're going to turn things around."
As disappointing as Saturday's result was, it was made even worse, as the Oilers held a second-period lead when Ryan Jones
' shorthanded marker put the visitors up 2-1. The Sharks tied it up, but took the lead when Theo Peckham
's third-period penalty allowed the home side to cash with the man-advantage.
"It's crucial to stay out of the box, especially in important times in the game," Gagner explained. "For the most part, our special teams have been quite good this season. We were putting so much emphasis on making [the opponent] work. 5-on-5, we've got to make sure we're playing solid, moving our feet and not taking those penalties that will cost us games.
"Detroit has a lethal power-play; even when they're not scoring, they're creating chances and adding momentum. We can't let them do that tonight."
Veteran rearguard Ryan Whitney
has been back in the lineup for 11 straight, but isn't 100-percent. The 28-year-old admitted that his struggling start to the season could be due to some pain he's been forced to deal with as the 2011-12 campaign rolls along.
"It's not really looking at points," he said, pinpointing his slow start. "It's about feeling better about my whole game. It's physical and mental, but it's physical when you take a stride and feel pain. You've got to be mentally strong to get through those things, because a lot of guys are playing in pain.
"It's tough to be comfortable when you're in pain, so there's a thought process you've got to have in getting by that."
"I hope he's there," Renney added. "I'm not going to sit here and critique a guy in front of the media, to be honest, it's not my style. We need Ryan to play well. We need all our players to play well."
Whitney agreed with his coach's sentiment. Averaging 18:38 per game, down from last season in which he patrolled the ice in 25-plus, and having recorded only two assists on the season, the Oilers' No. 1 D man knows he needs to be better; but it's a comment not lost on the club's desire to climb the standings, as each person in the locker room needs to step up.
"We need to be better. We need to be better as a team."
returned to the pipes in Saturday's game, stopping 34 shots as he notched the loss. He'll get back in tonight looking for redemption, as the Oilers need a win to keep pace with the conference's post-season dwellers.
"We have to approach every game as its own entity," Gagner said. "They're tough games, but for now we've got Detroit. It's going to be a tough test for us, but we thought we played pretty well last game; and assuming we continue to play that way, have intensity and make plays like we did, we're going to win more games than we lose.
"It's important for us to have a good start and establish the tone right away."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com
- Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
: Detroit 7-3-0; Edmonton 2-7-1.
: Detroit took the first of four meetings this season 3-0 at Joe Louis Arena on Nov.11, as Jimmy Howard collected the shutout and the Wings got goals from Drew Miller, Niklas Kronwall and Valtteri Filppula.
: The Red Wings are coming into Edmonton with a lot of confidence after lighting up the L.A. Kings 8-2 at home on Saturday night and holding a seven-game winning streak against the Oilers – who dropped a 3-2 game against San Jose on Saturday after heading into the third period tied 2-2. Edmonton has gone winless in eight of its last 10 games, but is hoping it's 9-5-2 home record comes into play when the Wings roll into town. It could merely because Detroit is still sub-par on the road with a 7-8-0 record in 15 games away from the Motor City.
: Detroit is now starting to get production out of its secondary scoring option, as Drew Miller and Corey Emmerton both scored twice in Saturday's rout of the Kings. If they can keep that going, it's going to make Detroit even tougher to stop than the Wings already are with the likes of Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg, Johan Franzen, Valtteri Filppula and a host of others dominating puck possession.
"I think it's huge to get the contribution from everyone," Miller said. "There's going to be nights where our big guys aren't scoring all the time. You count on your third- and fourth-line guys to chip in and come up big for the team."
: After a nice start, Edmonton's youth-filled roster has run into another tough stretch that's sunk the Oilers into a tie for last place in the Northwest Division with the Colorado Avalanche and 12th in the Western Conference with 31 points – which has them six points out of the top eight at this point. They're also coming back from a three-game road trip without a win and were outscored by a margin of 10-4 despite making the last game against the Sharks close. The Oilers held a 2-1 lead in that game in the second period, including Jordan Eberle
's 12th goal of the season, but they just couldn't hold off San Jose – which got the game-winner from Patrick Marleau early in the third. Sharks coach Todd McLellan, however, was quite impressed by Edmonton's top line of Taylor Hall
, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
and Eberle – which Oilers coach Tom Renney reunited during Saturday's game to get a spark.
"They've got a lot of pressure in everybody's zone the way they're playing," McLellan said. "If you're a fan of hockey, they're a great threesome to watch. They're young, they're excited to play and they're very gifted. They're going to do Edmonton proud for many years."
: Niklas Kronwall has a goal and 5 assists in his past six games, while Todd Bertuzzi has a five-game point streak and has recorded an assist in four consecutive games for the Wings. Hall has been hot in the two games since he returned from a shoulder injury that nearly cost him three weeks. He scored a pair of goals in a loss to the Phoenix Coyotes last Thursday and then added an assist to garner third-star of the game honors against San Jose on Saturday night. Eberle has 5 goals and 5 assists in his last 10 games.
: Forward Jan Mursak (fractured ankle) has returned to practices, but isn't ready to play yet while forward Patrick Eaves (fractured jaw) and Chris Conner (fractured hand) are recovering. … Defenseman Cam Barker
(ankle) is still out until likely February for the Oilers.
: During Detroit's seven-game win streak against Edmonton, Filppula has 3 goals and 4 assists to lead the Wings. Datsyuk has also been red hot for the Wings, scoring eight goals and adding 15 assists in the past 15 games. The Oilers have the League's top-ranked power play on home ice, where they've converted 17 of 69 chances (24.6 percent).
: When the Oilers humbled the highly-skilled Chicago Blackhawks 9-2 at Rexall Place on Nov.19, they ended a four-game losing streak and it looked like they might be able to use that big win to re-spark their season. Instead, Edmonton has stumbled to a 4-8-1 mark in the following 13 games.
-- Brian Hedger, NHL.com