|PHI||0||0||0||(0 - 0)||0|
|EDM||0||2||0||(0 - 0)||2|
OILERS vs. FLYERS - GET THE SCOOP
AT THE MORNING SKATE Edmonton, AB - In the very same spot at Rexall Place where Wayne Gretzky slid his fifth goal of the night into the empty cage to capture an untouchable NHL record on Dec. 30, 1981, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall were doing the same at the Oilers' morning skate, directly beneath The Great One's retired banner on the rink's east side – a glimpse back or a reminder, even, of the club's great rivalry with the Philadelphia Flyers as they wrapped up practice by tossing pucks into the awaiting four-by-six.
The 1987 Stanley Cup Final was another and, while tonight's encounter won't match the importance or up-tempo intensity that a clash for the league's title promises, these rare, once-a-season matchups with the Broad Street Bullies continue to be marked on the players' calendars.
"They're obviously a great team," said veteran Andy Sutton who, in his career, as notched a pair of goals and eight points against the Flyers. "They've got a lot of notoriety and a lot of great players, so it brings our attention level up and really allows us focus on what we're doing, which is exactly what we need.
"It's mostly about where we're at and where we want to get to. It's all about us. We're trying to build something that's stable and consistent. We had a great game the other night in Calgary, so we're really going to try and play the same way: put pucks in the right area, take away their time and space and be really stingy in the neutral zone.
"We want to work them over the same way we did with the Flames."
Jus as Sutton explained, the Oilers' mindset heading into tonight's game is that of more recent history. It was a complete effort the other night at the Saddledome, and it helped result in the club's best – and, perhaps, most rewarding – game of the 2011-12 campaign.
"The way we won that game was really special," said Associate Coach Ralph Krueger, who collected his first win as an NHL head coach. "It was a very complete game. It's always a combination. I thought the opposition didn't find their groove at all and couldn't bring much emotion to the table that day.
"Managing the lead and dealing with the goal against," he added about what was particularly positive about the Oilers' rout. "Both of those situations showed a maturity that we maybe haven't felt yet this season. Going down 1-0, there wasn't a heartbeat missed on the bench."
Knowing that the Flyers' scoring attack is as lethal as they come (Max Talbot is on Philly's fourth line, and he's still managed to score 17 goals this year), the Oilers are especially eager to counteract their opponent's style with something similar.
"They have the most goals in the league, so that's something that we have to be aware of," said Tom Gilbert, who will continue to be paired with Sutton in tonight's game. "We've got to be real concerned with what we're doing with the puck, where you're making passes, making sure pucks are getting deep and knowing where your guy is. They're a great transition team.
"They're sending three-four guys all the time, so our transition game could also be good, too. We could use that against them. You don't want to do a scoring game, back-and-forth with these guys, but we can be patient and wait for them to make mistakes."
Taylor Hall, who's climbing back to a point-per-game pace after having scored a goal and an assist in Tuesday's 6-1 throttling of the Flames, hasn't yet faced the Flyers in his career but is excited about tonight's opportunity.
"They score a lot of goals," he said, matter-of-factly. "With (Claude) Giroux, (Scott) Hartnell and (Wayne) Simmonds, that line is going to have to be something that we shut down. That's what drives their team (goal-scoring). They had a good win in Winnipeg and we know that they've been in a win-one, lose-one situation for the last little bit here. I'm sure they're trying to get momentum and get ahead in the playoff race, so we've got to shut that down."
Getting the opportunity to skate against a legendary NHL superstar, Jaromir Jagr, may also provide an additional boost to Hall's already passionate game.
"I've said it a lot, but one of the best things about playing in the NHL is to be able to play against the best players that have ever lived," he explained. "You can learn a thing or two about a guy like that.
"He's a legend in this game."
Just like those whose numbers hang proudly above the ice at Rexall Place.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW Last 10: Philadelphia 4-5-1; Edmonton 5-4-1
Season series: This is the only meeting between the teams this season. In their only game last season, Sergei Bobrovsky made 24 saves in a 4-1 Flyers win in Philadelphia on March 8, 2011. The teams last played in Edmonton more than two years ago -- a 1-0 Oilers win Feb. 3, 2010.
Big Story: Can the emotion of the Flyers' overtime win in Winnipeg on Tuesday carry over to Edmonton? Or can the Oilers play spoiler in the Flyers' attempt to climb back up the Eastern Conference standings?
Flyers: It's clear Ilya Bryzgalov still has some work to do to win over fickle Philadelphia fans. After getting booed at home in Saturday's loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, he said, "I'll try to find peace in my soul to play in this city."
The reception was just as icy in Winnipeg on Tuesday, as Jets fans -- still upset from critical comments about the city Bryzgalov made last season when he was with the Phoenix Coyotes -- derisively chanted "Ilya, Ilya" for large parts of the game.
After the 5-4 overtime win, however, Bryzgalov joked that he appreciated the "support."
"I like it,"' Bryzgalov said. "It was a great atmosphere. … It was nice to hear cheering, 'Il-ya, Il-ya.' I never heard that before, anywhere. When 15,000 people support you, it's very impressive. Here, they were cheering. In Philly, they boo me."
Oilers: Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin has heard his name bandied about in trade rumors, but the veteran has a message for Oilers GM Steve Tambellini: I want to stay.
"The results aren't there this year again, but I think we're on the right track," Khabibulin told the Edmonton Journal. "And I really do like it here. You do want to play games that mean something and it would be nice to be in the playoffs but … I want to see this team succeed. When that happens, I want to be a part of it."
Khabibulin won't be a part of any success for the next few days, while he deals with a groin issue. He could return as soon as Feb. 26 -- the day before the trade deadline.
Khabibulin, 39, is 12-16-5 in 34 games, with a 2.60 goals-against average and .914 save percentage. He has one year left on his contract, and Tambellini said last week that while he expects to hear calls about Khabibulin's availability, he's not shopping the goaltender.
Who's Hot: Flyers forward Jaromir Jagr has 3 goals in his last two games. … With 1 goal and 2 assists Tuesday, Oilers center Sam Gagner has 9 goals and 9 assists in nine February games.
Injury Report: Besides long-term injuries to forward Tom Sestito (groin) and defenseman Chris Pronger, the Flyers are fielding a healthy team. … Edmonton will be without Khabibulin (groin) and rookie forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (shoulder).
Stat Pack: Jagr's overtime goal Tuesday was the 16th of his NHL career, the most in League history. He had been tied with Mats Sundin, Sergei Fedorov and the Devils' Patrik Elias for the top spot.
Puck Drop: Born in Calgary, Taylor Hall was a Flames fan even when his family moved east to Windsor, Ont. So Tuesday was a big game for him for more than just the 6-1 Oilers victory.
Hall had a goal and an assist, his first points in six NHL games against the Flames. That they came at the Scotiabank Saddledome, a rink he skated in growing up, made it even more special.
"It's always in the back of your mind to play well against the team you grew up watching," Hall told the Edmonton Sun. "And I haven't even played well against them. It's nice to get that first point.
"It's too bad I don't have any family here anymore."
-- Adam Kimelman, NHL.com
|Feb 23 '12||PHI 0 at EDM 2||T. Hall|
|J. van Riemsdyk||40||11||13||24||+0||24||2||1|