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OILERS at KINGS - GET THE SCOOP
AT THE TEAM HOTEL Coming off a 2-1 win last night over the Ducks, the Oilers enter tonight's contest with hope of extending an already impressive road run to 6-0-2. But doing so will be difficult, considering the club's hotel next to the Staples Center is currently serving as triage for the team's walking wounding.
Ales Hemsky could only manage 10:36 of ice time before leaving the game in the second period with a sore shoulder last night in Anaheim; it's "not as serious" as it was previously, mind you. As such, No. 83 will take the warm-up and should be good to go.
Corey Potter isn't as lucky. With exactly 5:00 remaining in the opening period at the Honda Center, the 28-year-old was drilled by Bobby Ryan along the side boards -- a headshot, possibly, but Potter completed the game looking no worse for wear. Regardless, he'll sit out tonight with a suspected concussion.
"(Head Athletic Therapist) T.D. (Forss) checked with him a number of times on the bench and he was adamant that he was good to go and capable of playing," Head Coach Tom Renney said. "Subsequent to that and when things settle down, speaking from experience, that's when you go, 'Whoa. Wait a second.' That's basically what happened."
In his place, Bryan Rodney has been recalled from the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons.
Rodney, 27, was acquired from the Ducks in exchange for Ryan O'Marra on Feb. 16. He never did suit up for Anaheim, instead patrolling the blueline for the club's farm team in Syracuse. In 21 games with the Barons, the smooth, puck-moving rearguard has scored a goal and 18 points.
"I got a phone call late last night saying that something happened to Corey Potter and I was getting the call," he said as he addressed the media at the team's hotel in Los Angeles this morning. "It was a bit of a sleepless night, but it was full of excitement and I'm glad to be here.
"Everything's been about meeting people, not so much the Xs and Os right now. But I'm sure that'll go tonight before the game in the meetings. I'm pretty excited. I'm not sure if I'll be able to get a pre-game nap in tonight."
Rodney has 33 games of NHL experience, all with the Carolina Hurricanes. He's collected a goal and 13 points, along with 12 penalty minutes in that time. Heading into tonight, nerves aren't a problem.
"I want to make an impact," he explained. "Just try to play my game that I've played all year in the American League. The nerves aren't there as much as they were when I was younger in my early 20s. I got a chance to play in the Staples Center earlier in the pre-season this year, too, so that might help."
Rodney describes his game as "well-rounded," with extra emphasis on an up-ice attack without losing his own-end edge as anything but a liability.
"It wasn't the easiest road or the most traveled road that some of the guys in the NHL have to take, but that was the way I had to do it," Rodney said, looking back at his pro career that started in 2005-06 with the ECHL's Charlotte Checkers. "It's a cliche, but I wouldn't change any of it because it's made me who I am today."
With Ladislav Smid, Theo Peckham, Jeff Petry and now Potter all out, Rodney will help fill holes -- but so, too, will the club's remaining healthy bodies. Ryan Whitney and Nick Schultz compose the Oilers' top D unit; they're looking forward to the challenge of thwarting the Kings' attack and playing spoiler.
"Everybody stepped up and played well (last night)," said No. 15, who notched a +1 rating in the 2-1 win. "It's tough when you lose some guys, some key guys.
"It's a big opportunity to play spoiler. They're a team that plays tight, they play really good defence and this is a must-win game for them. For us, it's a big opportunity to go out against a team that's playing some good hockey and prove that we can compete and play against them."
Upon Schultz's arrival, he was used sparingly as a complementary player to the team's top pairing, but his role has since elevated -- something the 29-year-old is thriving on, as he's routinely playing upwards of 20 minutes per game now. That's extended to a leadership role as well.
"In general, all the guys on the team have done that -- even when I came in and when younger guys come in, you want them to feel comfortable and that they're part of the team."
BACK BETWEEN THE PIPES
Devan Dubnyk, who had a strong March (6-2-1, 1.95 goals-against average and .934 save percentage) began April without a hiccup. The sophomore stopped 32 shots en route to the one-goal victory a night ago. He'll get the start again tonight, looking to advance on his 20-18-2 overall record.
"Yeah, let's put him in," Renney laughed as edmontonoilers.com's Tom Gazzola prodded for the starter's name. "We'll give him another chance. It's important to play back-to-back great games. The arrow continues to point up with him and we'll give him the opportunity to do that and see what happens."
The Kings are coming off a 4-1 over the Oilers last Friday night at Rexall Place. While the club currently holds the Western Conference's third spot as Pacific Division leaders (91 points), their spot in the post-season is certainly not guaranteed.
Hot on their heels, the San Jose Sharks (90 points, eighth in the West) and Dallas Stars (89 points, ninth in the West) are both chasing a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and the league's Pacific Division title at the same time.
With a mere 15 shots rifled on Jonas Hiller to the Ducks' 33 on Dubnyk one night ago, the Oilers know a better net-presence is required to come out with a win.
"That might be an idea. Shooting," Renney said. "We didn't direct enough shots at all on the night. We have to make sure we go hard to the net, put pucks there and create chaos."
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com with files from Tom Gazzola - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
Last 10: Edmonton 6-2-2; Los Angeles 7-2-1
Season Series: It's the last of the four meetings between the teams this season. Edmonton won twice before the All-Star break, including a 3-0 win at Staples Center on Nov. 3, before the Kings beat the Oilers 4-1 last Friday at Rexall Place.
Big Story: The Kings come home to start the final weeks of the season on top in the Pacific Division after a grueling road trip that saw them go 2-1-1. They catch the Oilers on the second half of a back-to-back after Edmonton held off Anaheim 2-1 on Sunday.
Oilers: It's always better to play with a lead. Just ask the Oilers, who scored got a pair of early goals by Teemu Hartikainen and rode the goaltending of Devan Dubnyk to a win in Anaheim. Dubnyk made 32 saves as he continues to stake claim to the No. 1 goaltending job.
"The only way to get better is to play and to learn," he said. "You learn what works and how to play the puck. I feel like I'm in a good spot."
Kings: Coach Darryl Sutter decided not to hold practice on Sunday, opting for meetings and off-ice workouts after his team returned home following four games in six days on the road.
The Kings were disappointed at leaving a point on the table in Minnesota after they led 3-2 entering the third period.
"For us, right now where we are in the standings, we need the points bad. It doesn't matter whether we're playing a team that's in it or out of it," defenseman Rob Scuderi said.
Who's Hot: Dubnyk has won four of his last five decisions and is 20-18-2 on a team that's well below .500. … Anze Kopitar, the Kings' top scorer, had assists on all three goals against Minnesota and has seven points in his last three games.
Injury Report: Edmonton defensemen Ladislav Smid (neck) and Jeff Petry (face) were injured Friday and didn't play Sunday. Taylor Hall (shoulder surgery) hopes to be back by the start of the season. … The Kings are missing forward Jeff Carter (ankle).
Stat Pack: The Kings are 6-8 in shootouts this season. Starting goaltender Jonathan Quick was 10-0 last season. … The 73 points by the Oilers is more than they've had in any season since earning 85 in 2008-09. Edmonton had 62 points in each of the last two seasons.
Puck Drop: So what does a hockey team do on April Fools' Day? If you're the Oilers, you put out a press release touting a two-game series with the Canadian Football League's Edmonton Eskimos for "ultimate bragging rights to the City of Champions." Game 1 of the "series" would see both squads suit up for hockey at Rexall Place on June 7, while Game 2 will be football at Commonwealth Stadium on June 29. The team with the highest combined number of goals and points would be crowned champion the next day at the Eskimos' home opener.
As the release notes at the bottom, the winner is the Boys and Girls Club, which will receive $10,000 from both teams.
-- John Kreiser, NHL.com