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OILERS vs. COYOTES - GET THE SCOOP
AT THE MORNING SKATE Edmonton, AB - The Edmonton Oilers take on the Phoenix Coyotes tonight on Fan Appreciation Night at Rexall Place looking to build on their previous two games -- both victories.
However, they will have to do it without the services of Taylor Hall who was taken out by Calgary's Cory Sarich on Friday.
"I feel good. I feel pretty much normal. While I don't remember too much of the hit and I wasn't too great the other night I woke up yesterday morning feeling pretty good and woke up this morning feeling even better so I'm just going to take it day-by-day. Hopefully tomorrow I feel the same."
As for timelines, Hall said he didn't have one at this point in time.
"I'm going to talk to the doctor tonight and he's going to talk about what I can and cannot do. Tonight I'm going to get a sweat on and ride the bike during the game. I anticipate feeling good then from there it's just getting on the ice and getting contact again."
The injury was Hall's first concussion.
"I've never been knocked out or anything like that before. It's pretty scary for me, pretty scary for the people around me. I'm really glad that I'm okay now. I feel normal, I feel fine."
As for the hit itself, Hall didn't think it was questionable.
"I lost an edge. I don't know if it hurt or help me regarding the hit. I didn't think he was going to come because they had three guys caught down low. I didn't think Sarich would be the guy to pinch. I just need to keep my head up and expect that guy to come."
"Who knows what would have happened if I had stayed on my feet. Whether I would have played that whole game or if I would have been hurt worse. It looked like something was going to hit my head whether it was his elbow or his shoulder. Regardless, that's not for me to decide."
Oilers head coach Tom Renney said that the team was going to follow protocol when it came to monitoring the status of Hall and deciding when he will get back in the lineup.
"There are steps that are in place for us follow, no question. we need to let the medical team give us the right information. We're not going to guess on this," he said.
"At the end of the day, we've got a number of games left and he could participate in a whole chunk of those if he's healthy," Renney continued. "You have to listen to the athlete but you also have to take that with a grain of salt because they're competitive people and they want to play."
Renney said that Hall is likely to do a baseline test tomorrow morning to determine if he's good to go for some of the road trip. The team hasn't made a decision on whether or not to recall someone from OKC.
STILL A GAME TO PLAY TONIGHT
Hall won't be in the lineup tonight but the Oilers still do have a game to play.
Omark was a healthy scratch on Friday while Hordichuk missed the game due to the birth of his son, Declan.
"The doctor said he was one of the best looking babies he'd ever seen," chuckled Hordichuk following the morning skate.
"We can all agree that Hartikainen had a pretty good night the other night so I'm going to try that one," Renney noted.
In talking about the Coyotes, Renney said that ensuring the team doesn't have a let down after a big win against their provincial rivals was a big key if they hoped to play spoiler tonight.
"You've got to conjure up the proper emotion," Renney said. "You've got to make that connection with the game. You can only show so much video. At the end of the day, they've got to make the choice.
"If you're going to make mistakes, make mistakes going after the win."
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW Last 10: Phoenix 3-5-2, Edmonton 4-5-1.
Season Series: The Coyotes roll into Rexall Place looking for a season sweep and a fifth straight win over the Oilers, against whom they've already taken nine of 10. They've already guaranteed a third straight series win, having taken three of four each of the previous two seasons.
Big story: The Coyotes launched themselves into the thick of the Western Conference race with an 11-0-1 February, but they've followed it with a 2-5-2 March, which has made their playoff position tenuous. Going into Saturday's action, they were tied with Colorado in the seventh and eighth spots, but with the Avs, Sharks and Kings playing, they could find themselves out of the playoff picture when they take the ice Sunday. A win, though, would bring them even with the Pacific Division-leading Stars and set the scene for their meeting on Tuesday. The Oilers have some opportunities to wreak havoc on teams' playoff aspirations as they did to the Flames on Friday in a 3-1 win, as five of their next six games will be against playoff contenders.
Coyotes: The 'Yotes knew the game in Calgary would be difficult, not just because the Flames are chasing them, not just because of the hard-fought win in Vancouver that opened the back-to-back, but because they would have to play without leading scorer Radim Vrbata, top-line center Martin Hanzal and defenseman Adrian Aucoin.
The Flames took advantage early as Sven Baertschi scored 17 seconds in and ran away with the game, 4-1, for their fifth straight win. Coach Dave Tippett's 400th career victory would have to wait another night.
"This is desperation time," Tippett said. "For us to come out and play a game like that is unacceptable for our group."
Oilers: They ended up doing the Coyotes a favor. After the Flames handed the 'Yotes a loss, the Oilers went and did the same to the Flames, keeping their order in the standings -- at least temporarily.
The game started with a serious setback as Taylor Hall took a hard hit from Flames defenseman Cory Sarich, knocking him out of action for the evening with a concussion. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle took over from there, though, and the Oilers threw another wrench into the Western Conference works.
RNH scored twice and Eberle put up a goal and two assists, continuing a trend that began when they became linemates. Like the Sedins further west or Stamkos and St. Louis in Tampa Bay, the Oilers are developing a formidable duo.
"We just play very similar games as far as the way that we see the ice. I think our best characteristic is our smarts," said Eberle to the Edmonton Journal. "(Hall) is run and gun. He plays with a lot of speed and quickness, whereas we play a thinking man's game and I think that's why we play so well together."
Who's Hot: Oliver Ekman-Larsson has had an impressive week. He has goals in three straight games, the first time he's done that in his career. Ray Whitney has five assists in his last three games. Shane Doan didn't get on the board in Calgary but had four points in his three games prior. Eberle has six points in his last four games, while Nugent-Hopkins has six in his last five. Mike Smith has cooled off a bit in March along with his team, but still has a 1.67 goals-against average in his three meetings with the Oilers this year. Devan Dubnyk stopped 40 of 41 shots in the Oilers' back-to-back wins and may get a fourth straight start as a result.
Injury report: Hanzal (upper body), Vrbata (illness) and Aucoin (lower body) are still day-to-day, while forward Kyle Chipchura (upper body) has been cleared for contact and could be ready next week. Oilers forward Ben Eager (back) is also day-to-day.
Stat Pack: The Jets/Coyotes franchise has never swept the Oilers, the only time they came out of a season series with no losses was 2000-01 when they won two and tied two. Eberle has yet to score a goal in seven games against Phoenix, while Nugent-Hopkins and Hall each have two goals and three assists so far, as does Whitney on the other side.
Puck Drop: "He was coming down to make contact, he wasn't coming to pat him on the back. He was coming down to cream him. He did, but Taylor also slipped. That made it much worse than it could have been. It was a clean hit." -- Oilers coach Tom Renney on Cory Sarich's concussion-inducing hit on Taylor Hall
-- Matt Mankiewich, NHL.com