EDMONTON - It is all quiet here inside (and outside) Rogers Place for now, but in a few hours the blocks surrounding this sparkling arena will come to life leading up to one of the most anticipated games of the season. Eleven years have passed since the Edmonton Oilers last made it to the postseason. In fact, the Oilers had to get past the Ducks in the Western Conference Final in order to get to the Stanley Cup Final that year, eventually losing a heartbreaking Game 7 to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Oilers punched their ticket to the postseason with a victory over the LA Kings on Tuesday, and tonight figures to have the look and feel of a playoff game.
"There is a lot of energy in this city," said Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle. "A lot of excitement. It is great for the city and the league. It's all positive."
Judging by Anaheim's pregame skate earlier today, John Gibson will make his first appearance since March 10. Tonight will mark Gibson's 47th start of the season, but just his second start over the last 17 games. Gibson missed six games with a lower-body injury from February 22-March 9, and missed seven more from March 12-26 with another lower-body injury. Gibson has fared well against the Oilers over his career, going 4-1-1 with a 1.66 goals-against average and .939 save percentage.
With all the hype surrounding this game, Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler says it is hard not getting wrapped up in it. "It's very exciting," he said. "Good opportunity for our club to bounce back after what happened against Winnipeg. It should be a great atmosphere. You always circle divisional opponents no matter what time of the year it is, but especially now, gearing up for playoffs. These teams we play in the next little while, we can see in the first round."
It will be one of the loudest road buildings they will play in all season, but Fowler says he and his teammates welcome the challenge. "You have to be ready to compete and be ready to go because you don't want teams feeling like they have a competitive advantage against you," he said. "We want to prove we can come into hostile buildings and play well."
Rushes during pregame warmups tonight will give us a better understanding of line combinations, but it appears there is a chance Korbinian Holzer draws in and Brandon Montour sits.
Cam Talbot will get the start tonight for Edmonton in his league-high 70th game of the season. Talbot has been nothing short of a workhorse, leading the league in minutes played (4,053) and saves (1,867) and ranking third in wins (39). The 29-year-old netminder has seven shutouts this season, a new career high and one away from tying the Oilers single-season record (8), set by Tommy Salo in 2000-01.
As good as he has been all season, Talbot was pulled in the most recent meeting between these two clubs. Talbot entered that game (a 4-3 Ducks win) coming off back-to-back shutouts, but allowed four goals on 18 shots.
Potential Line Combinations
*Holzer could also slot next to Kevin Bieksa, while Sami Vatanen moves up alongside Fowler.