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OILERS at FLAMES - GET THE SCOOP
AT THE MORNING SKATE Calgary, AB - Success against the Calgary Flames this season has been non-existent, as the Oilers have dropped all four decisions to their provincial rivals by a combined 16-6 score.
To make matters worse, the Oilers have lost 10 straight at Scotiabank Saddledome, gaining but a single point on Oct. 26, 2010 when they succumbed by a 5-4 score in a shootout. The visitors' last victory at the ‘Dome came on Oct. 17, 2008 in a 4-3 win.
Looking to put a damper on the Flames' post-season hopes, the orange and blue are going to make a couple changes heading into tonight's Northwest Division clash.
Ryan Jones, who recently snapped a 22-game goalless skid with a tally vs. Colorado, but is still mired in a tough stretch, will get the night off as Associate Coach Ralph Krueger has opted for brute, muscle and intimidation as Darcy Hordichuk will be reinserted in No. 28's place.
Hordichuk last played on Jan. 24 in Vancouver -- a near calendar month in which the 6'1", 212-pound bruiser has been relegated to press box duty, missing out on nine consecutive games as a healthy scratch.
Even then, he only patrolled the sheet for 4:45, so he's hoping to make this opportunity count -- on a grand stage, no less, in the Battle of Alberta.
"No doubt about it," Hordichuk said, putting words into the excitement he's bringing into the game. "It's always nice to get back in the lineup. It's been a little bit of time since I've been in, but I look forward to keeping the game simple; doing what I do best, and that's banging bodies. If need be, hopefully someone will drop the gloves over there.
"Anytime I'm in the lineup, that's (energy) what we're looking for. It's contagious. When a couple guys start hitting, then everybody starts to get into the game and you get a little more emotionally involved."
The changes won't stop there. Corey Potter, who's missed the past three games with a groin injury, will get back into the lineup tonight as well. Since returning to the lineup on Feb. 2, Cam Barker has amassed a -5 rating; -8 in his past five games, too, so he'll sit out.
"It's only been three games, but it feels like it's been a long time," Potter said with a laugh. "I'm excited to get back in and try to help this team win. I'm ready to go. The doctors gave me the OK. I think everything's ready to get back on pace."
Potter will be paired with Ryan Whitney tonight.
The opponent will be a tough test, as the Flames are currently hot (no kidding, right?) striking a 5-2-3 record in the club's past 10 outings. As such, Calgary is back in the post-season picture, sitting with 65 points and a share of eighth place in the West.
In playing 15 of their last 23 at home at Scotiabank Saddledome, they truly do control their own destiny. But with an opportunity to play spoiler and get back off the snide vs. Calgary, the Oilers are excited about tonight's matchup.
"They've really taken it to us," Krueger said, noting the Flames' recent dominance over the Oilers. "They're playing well of late. I think they have points in 14 of their past 17 games and they're really looking like a playoff team at the moment, so we know we need to bring our 'A' game today, irrelevant of the series.
"They have to win and we want to win. The pressure is in their court."
"We know how good Calgary is playing right now," added Calgary-born Taylor Hall. "We haven't won in this building in a long time. We want to come in here with a good start, and that's been our downfall of late, is our starts. If we can manage that, especially on the road, we should be okay."
It's a bit of a homecoming for Hall, who hasn't had the opportunity to play at Scotiabank Saddledome yet this season.
"This is where I grew up and I'm sure there will be some people in the crowd tonight that I know and grew up with," he said. "It's always fun coming back here. As a kid I was a huge Flames fan, and to be playing in this rink against the Calgary Flames is very cool and it brings back a lot of memories."
While No. 4 is sensing some extra motivation due to his homegrown ties, Sam Gagner is sensing opportunity elsewhere in playing spoiler, which has its own inspiration.
"Whatever's happened in the past, it's something that we're not proud of and we want to change the situation," he said. "We know they're playing really well right now and they're fighting for a playoff spot, but it's an exciting challenge for us to come in here, play the way we can play and take a win from them.
"Whether we're in the playoff picture or not, we want to continue and try to approach every game as a playoff scenario and try to gain experience from that," Gagner added. "If we can do that and continue to grow as a group, while spoiling some teams' playoff hopes and maybe even putting ourselves back in the picture, we're excited for it."
OIL SPILLS: Call-up Yann Danis arrived in Calgary from Oklahoma City, but it will be Devan Dubnyk who will gets the start again tonight. The 25-year-old has posted a 10-14-1 record, along with a 3.05 goals-against average and .905 save percentage this season.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW Last 10: Edmonton 4-4-2; Calgary 5-2-3.
Season Series: This is the fifth of six meetings between these fierce rivals. Calgary is 4-0-0 against Edmonton this season, outscoring the Oilers 16-6 along the way. The Flames have won the last nine meetings, and 10 straight at Scotiabank Saddledome.
Big Story: February has been awfully kind to the Flames, who have fought their way into playoff contention. Calgary enters Tuesday's action 5-0-3 this month, which allowed it to move into a tie for eighth place in the Western Conference with the Los Angeles Kings.
Oilers: Inconsistency has plagued Edmonton this season and will certainly keep them out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Oilers suffered their third straight loss Sunday -- a 5-2 decision against the Vancouver Canucks at Rexall Place. Edmonton has lost five of its last six games and has allowed the first goal in five straight contests.
"You can't play catch-up hockey in today's game," said veteran forward Ryan Smyth. "You have to play with pride, play for your jersey and for your job."
Flames: The remainder of February has the potential of also being kind to Calgary, as Tuesday marks the beginning of a four-game homestand. The Flames return to Scotiabank Saddledome -- where they'll play 9 of their next 12 -- after going 1-0-1 on a brief two-game trip, which concluded with a 1-0 victory at Los Angeles on Saturday.
Goaltending has played a huge role in Calgary's resurgence. Miikka Kiprusoff has allowed three or fewer goals in 11 of his last 15 starts.
"He's played as good as I've seen him play in his career -- and that's counting the Vezina year (in 2006)," captain Jarome Iginla said of Kiprusoff. "He's been outstanding all year, and he's enjoying it. He's really into it. He doesn't mind that each game is tight because he loves to compete."
Who's Hot: Magnus Paajarvi has scored twice in the last five games for Edmonton. … Flames forward Michael Cammalleri has 3 goals in his last four.
Injury Report: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder), Corey Potter (groin) and Theo Peckham (concussion) are day-to-day for the Oilers. … Mikael Backlund (shoulder), Blair Jones (ankle), Lee Stempniak (ankle), Curtis Glencross (knee), Derek Smith (ankle) and David Moss (foot) are all out for Calgary.
Stat Pack: Oilers goalie Devan Dubnyk is 0-3-1 with a 3.44 goals-against average in five career appearances against the Flames. … Edmonton has not won in Calgary since Oct. 17, 2008.
Puck Drop: "It's a step. We've been battling hard chipping away, getting a point here, point there, win here, and we feel our game is going in the right direction and we've been getting better, so we want to keep it going, but this feels good. This is the start where we want to go, and now we want to keep going. It's going to be a race down to the end and bunch of teams in there, but tonight we'll enjoy it and should. We don't think we've gotten there, by any means, but it's a big win." -- Flames captain Jarome Iginla after Saturday's 1-0 win at Los Angeles.
-- John Kreiser, NHL.com