Edmonton, AB - Sporting a 2-7-1 record in the team's past 10 outings and riding a three-game losing streak, which includes a listless 6-2 loss to the Calgary Flames on Saturday, the challenge doesn't get any easier tonight.
With the San Jose Sharks (also on a three-game losing skid) rolling into Rexall Place, help is on the way as the orange and blue look to ice a more balanced squad tonight: Teemu Hartikainen, Lennart Petrell and Taylor Chorney are all in.
"I haven't been here enough to speak on the situation up here, but it's been a blast in Oklahoma City," explained Chorney, who's had a whirlwind season in which recalls and waiver claims have dominated discussion. "We've been rolling and we've got a great team down there. It's been fun winning games, and it's been a great way to work on my game.
"Nothing is going to surprise me anymore," he added with a laugh.
Chorney has notched three goals and 11 points in 25 games with the AHL's OKC Barons this season, and has been up and down with great regularity as he hopes to nail down a roster spot in the NHL.
"I think most importantly, I need to take it one day at a time," he said, noting that he needs to keep his game simple in order to stick. "I might only get one game and I might not play tomorrow, so you never know. I'm going to make sure that I make the most of every opportunity I get.
"I'm more prepared this time," Chorney added. "Last time I got called up, I was sitting on my butt in St. Louis for about a month and I played a weekend's worth of games in OKC, and then I was back up here in the NHL. Maybe I've had a chance to get into a little bit of a groove. I'd like to think it's going to go a bit better this time around"
With Hartikainen and Petrell also making their returns, with the latter having played in 30 NHL games this season, additional moves were bound to happen. Ben Eager and Darcy Hordichuk will sit as healthy scratches tonight.
"It was pretty good," Petrell said. "I didn't really know what to expect (in Oklahoma City), but it was fun.
"We've got a lot of experienced guys and we've got some youth. I think everybody here needs to step up and show as an example to everyone. I'm going to do the same, to be an example that I deserve to be here in Edmonton."
While there was some discussion and mumbling amongst the media that a more veteran player would get the press box view, Head Coach Tom Renney insisted – with Eager, especially – that there were some parts of No. 55's game that need he "needs to improve and be better at."
"We're going to give [Hartikainen] an opportunity to play a couple games here," he said. "He's one of those guys that's symbolic of our future, and the type of people we've got to have in our lineup to establish any type of presence that has a physical aspect to it."
"Just bring my physical play," Hartikainen said, referencing what he needs to do to have success in the NHL. "Drive to the net, hit guys, make some room for my linemates; what I've done, like last year when I played here. I think it was good for me to go down there (to OKC) and play big minutes."
Renney, who's been on the hot seat in regards to his long-term position with the club, spoke at length about how the Oilers' locker room is still "galvanized" under these tough circumstances and amid the team's disappointing stretch.
"What we need to do is be mentally tough," he said. "There's momentum swings, goals happen, things happen. You'd like to be able to control every aspect of the game, but sometimes you don't and you've got to be able to deal with that. As much as anything tonight, I want us to be able to cope and deal with the circumstances as they present themselves.
"The most important thing is that they are galvanized together. You have to be that way under these circumstances, without a doubt. As a group, very good; the spirits are good, but I'm not going to tell you that they're stellar day-in and day-out every moment, but there's no question that they're together in this. That's a great starting point. If you want to turn things around, you've got to be on the same page."
Devan Dubnyk will get the start in goal, looking to improve on his 6-11-0 record, 2.05 goals-against average and .902 save percentage.
EBERLE NAMED TO THE ALL-STAR GAME
Just prior to the Oilers' morning skate, it was announced that Jordan Eberle had been named to the NHL's All-Star Weekend. When the selections were originally announced, No. 14 had been told that he would have been chosen, but wasn't due to a knee sprain that he endured in a loss to the Dallas Stars on Jan. 7.
Now he's back, healed up, and excited about the chance to rub elbows with the NHL's elite.
"I made it," he said with a laugh. "It's pretty exciting. It's a pretty good accomplishment; it's something that, going into the season you don't really think about and you're worried about the season, but as the time comes closer you start to see that you've got a chance. It's a nice accomplishment.
"I don't think it was on my radar. I was more worried about playing hockey and having success with this club. As the season's gone on and I've had some success, with the linemates I've played with and getting the chance on special teams, it might have come up a little bit. It's an honour."
Season series: This is the second of four meetings between these Western Conference foes, who square off in Edmonton for the first time this season. In the first matchup on Dec. 17 in San Jose, Patrick Marleau scored the only goal of the third period to lift the Sharks to a 3-2 victory. Antti Niemi stopped 23 shots for the win, while Nikolai Khabibulin made 34 saves in defeat.
Big Story: San Jose, which leads Los Angeles by just one point for the top spot in the Pacific Division, is aiming to get back on track after dropping two in a row. The Sharks do have four games in hand over L.A., as they travel to Edmonton for the middle contest of a three-game swing through western Canada. San Jose's recent struggles pale in comparison to those of the Oilers, who have just five wins in their last 25 games and have dropped to 29th in the League with only 38 points.
Sharks: Following a one-goal defeat at Vancouver on Saturday afternoon, the Sharks have now lost three of four after recording a point in 14 of their previous 15 (10-1-4). Logan Couture scored San Jose's first two goals -- giving him 20 for the season -- and the game was tied 2-2 late into the third period, when the teams suddenly combined for three goals in 92 seconds. Ryan Kesler started the outburst, giving the Canucks a 3-2 lead with 5:49 left. Dan Boyle responded merely 36 seconds later with his fourth goal of the season to knot the game once again. Vancouver grabbed the lead right back though, as Cody Hodgson netted his second tally of the game to send the Canucks to a 4-3 win. Hodgson was actually trying to make a pass from behind the goal line, but the puck caromed off the stick of Sharks forward Michal Handzus and slipped past a surprised Niemi.
"The frustrating thing is we are aware of the mistakes we're making and still making them," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said. "A missed faceoff assignment (on Hodgson's first goal), a pinch we don't cover above (on Kesler's goal), and the goal from below the goal line is tough to swallow. Good teams make you pay for those errors. We didn't make many, but when we did, they put it in the net."
Oilers: The Oilers were booed off the ice Saturday night at Rexall Place after they lost the Battle of Alberta for the ninth straight time and the fourth time this season. Lee Stempniak had a hat trick and an assist for Calgary, who maintained its dominance over Edmonton with a convincing 6-2 victory. Taylor Hall returned after missing two games with a grisly 30-stitch cut in his forehead, but it provided no early spark as the Oilers fell behind 3-0 after one period.
"We got ourselves behind the eight-ball right away," Oilers coach Tom Renney said. "We weren't very smart. Calgary has played very disciplined against us and we needed to match that intelligence and play the way we need to play to have success. I think they (the Edmonton players) are giving it everything they have, but are at a little bit of a loss right now. It may be a confidence issue. But the answer is with them, not anybody else."
Andy Sutton and Ryan Smyth scored in the third period for the Oilers, who have just one regulation win in the last month -- a 4-3 victory at Chicago on Jan. 2.
"It's unacceptable," Smyth said. "Everybody has to look in the mirror and take responsibility right now. We have to come and play hard with pride, character and care."
Who's Hot: Boyle has points in six of his last eight games for the Sharks, notching 2 goals and 8 assists in that stretch.
Injury Report: San Jose forwards Ryane Clowe (facial fracture), Martin Havlat (hamstring) and Tommy Wingels (upper body) are all on Injured Reserve. Defenseman Jim Vandermeer, who hasn't played since Dec. 6 because of an upper-body injury, was activated from IR on Saturday. … Edmonton forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder) and blueliners Tom Gilbert (ankle) and Cam Barker (ankle) are on IR. Defenseman Ryan Whitney has also been sidelined with an ankle injury, but is likely to return Monday or Tuesday.
Stat Pack: In Saturday's loss to Vancouver, Couture scored a short-handed goal as well as a power-play goal, which was just San Jose's sixth tally with the man advantage in 45 chances since Dec. 23. … Edmonton hasn't scored more than two goals in a game since a 4-3 loss at St. Louis on Jan. 5.
Puck Drop: Hall was making headlines after Saturday's game for something other than his new battle scars. The 20-year-old forward was seen on the ice mouthing 'Where's the goalie?' after Calgary's sixth goal, which was an empty-netter.
"A bit of frustration," Hall told the team's official web site after Sunday's practice. "We all want to win, we all care in here and to have that kind of result and effort we did last night isn't what we wanted. After that goal, I was just so frustrated at the whole sequence of events. I'm not singling out Tom (Renney) by any means, I respect everything that Tom does. It's kind of embarrassing on my part to say that. But we've moved on and talked about it and everything is fine."
Renney said the incident should be used as a learning experience.
"That's okay. He regrets that. Frustration is alive and well in here right now. It's an opportunity to curtail that and recognize that growing up and maturing as a player involves doing that. If you're going to be a leader on this team down the road -- and he will be -- he's got to be able to handle these types of circumstances and understand what we're doing here."