Anaheim, CA - The Edmonton Oilers open a two-game California road trip tonight in Anaheim against the Ducks.
Earlier this season, the Oilers lost 5-0 to Anaheim on home ice and will be looking for some payback. The team did pull a win out of the Honda Center last year but overall have only won once against the Southern California squad in their last 10 outings.
"I just think compete," said Oilers head coach Tom Renney when asked what the keys are to defeating the Ducks tonight. "Play to our strengths. Puck speed, go on the attack. Making sure we don't give up the odd-man rushes."
Renney went on to talk about the Ducks' dangerous forward core - particularly the top six.
"They're a good team. This isn't the type of season they wanted, either but the one thing they are doing is playing games of consequence."
After starting the year 10-22-6, the Ducks have climbed their way back to .500 and are on the outskirts of a playoff race for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference -- seven points back of San Jose.
"They recovered well from a tough start. Whether or not they can pull this off at the end of the day remains to be seen."
Tom Renney pronounced Taylor Hall ready to go after missing yesterday's practice due to a maintenance day. Hall took a tumble into the boards on Friday against Dallas and didn't miss a shift but showed a lot of discomfort in his shoulder.
Hall himself said he was ready to play. The winger took several drills, including a number of the shooting variety with Renney, and said he came away pain free every time.
With his shoulder not an issue, Hall turned his focus to playing against the Ducks' top unit of Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf -- a trio which is expected to see at least some time together with Hagman substituting for Ryan at times.
"There's no doubt that they're a tough line to play against," said Hall of Anaheim's forwards. "When they're on top of their game they're so good, so fun to watch and so hard to play against at the same time."
With Hall likely being matched up against them, he knows what he has to do tonight.
"They score the majority of their goals, we need to play them hard. When you don't have a lot of time and someone's always in your face it makes for a long night."
OMARK A GAME-TIME DECISION
This morning, Linus Omark was called up from Oklahoma City of the AHL. Omark is coming off of three games in three nights after having played on the weekend for the Barons.
Coach Renney didn't tip his hand on whether Omark would suit up this evening but Omark said if he does, he'll be ready.
"It's more fun to play hockey than be hurt so I'm glad to be here," said Omark, referencing an ankle injury which kept him out of the lineup for over two months.
"My skating wasn't there," he said of his initial return. "The last couple of games I've been 100%. Feeling better and better every game."
Renney talked about the opportunity presented to the Swedish winger, playing his first game since being sent to OKC in late October after only playing in five games at the NHL level.
"Timing is everything," said Renney. "As we rebuild and integrate young players into our lineup -- and certain players -- it has cost him a little bit. But he's got terrific skill. He's got a knack. He's got a courage to play the game."
Renney added that what makes Omark the special player he can be is his creativity.
"Where this ends up going, is hard to say. I think he can contribute to our organization. I think there's an opportunity for him, should he come back and have a real strong training camp. Obviously, he needs to get traction. My hope is it's through us."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
Last 10: Edmonton 4-5-1; Anaheim 5-4-1.
Season Series: The Ducks and Oilers have met just once this season, with Anaheim trouncing the Oilers in a 5-0 blitzing on Jan. 13 at Rexall Place.
Big Story: As the Ducks try to make their desperate last-ditch playoff push, they'll be getting awfully familiar with the Oilers. The two teams will face each other three times over the final five weeks of the season, and Anaheim will have a chance to fire its opening shot Monday night at Honda Center.
Oilers: A promising start to the season for Edmonton has long since fell to the wayside and with 18 games to go, the Oilers, sitting well behind the West's top eight and 14th in the Conference have been relegated to the role of spoiler. Given that the Oilers are 10 points back of the 13th-place Ducks and well ahead of cellar-dwelling Columbus, their position in the standings is unlikely to change by the end of the season.
Fortunately for Edmonton, they have a chance to play that role of spoiler Monday night as the Ducks are clinging to life in the Western Conference playoff race. A loss for Anaheim could be a terminal blow, but gathering the momentum could be tricky for Edmonton, which has lost three of its last four games and is coming off a 3-1 defeat to Dallas Friday night.
Ducks: Like the Oilers, the Ducks have also lost three of four games, but unlikely the Oil, Anaheim is still, albeit narrowly, in the playoff hunt. The Ducks remarkable second half under midseason replacement head coach Bruce Boudreau has put them within reaching distance of eighth place, a run that is due in large part to goalie Jonas Hiller, who has started Anaheim's last 25 games and given up more then two goals just six times in that span.
The biggest issue for Anaheim, however, is that to make the postseason it will have to hop over five teams with just 16 games to go, something that has become increasingly more difficult since the advent of the three-point game in the NHL. Even more troublesome is that while the Ducks did recently defeat Calgary, one of the teams they're chasing, they have also lost recently to two others, Los Angeles and Colorado. Even more crucial is that after Monday, the Ducks will go on a three-game road trip on which they will visit St. Louis, Dallas and Colorado that could prove the make-or-break stretch of their season.
Who's Hot: Bobby Ryan has an outside shot at his fourth consecutive 30-goal season and he's certainly helped the pace lately, tallying two goals and an assist in his last four games. ... Taylor Hall has seven points in his last six games.
Injury Report: The Ducks are still missing backup goaltender Dan Ellis, who has been out since early January with a torn groin. Theo Peckham is questionable for Edmonton with a facial injury.
Stat Pack: Despite their struggle with winning games on the whole, the Oilers actually have the League's top-ranked power play unit, converting at 21.7 %. That could prove pivotal against the Ducks, who have been shorthanded 128 times season -- the second-highest total in the NHL.
Puck Drop: If there is a trend the Ducks can take solace in it's that they've played the Oilers about as well as any team can play any other, winning nine of their last ten games overall. As well, Anaheim is 10-2-1 in its last 13 games at home, a positive harbinger against the Oil, which is one of just two teams in the League with 20 regulation losses on the road.