GAME: Carolina Hurricanes at Edmonton Oilers.
PLAYOFF SERIES: Stanley Cup finals, Hurricanes lead 2-0.
TIME: Saturday, 8 p.m. EST.
The Edmonton Oilers insist goaltender Jussi Markkanen is not as bad as the Carolina Hurricanes made him look in their lopsided Game 2 victory in the Stanley Cup finals.
The Oilers get their chance to back up those claims on home ice as they attempt to avoid going into an almost insurmountable 0-3 hole in the series.
Oilers coach Craig MacTavish turned to his first backup, Ty Conklin, in the third period of Game 1 after starter Dwayne Roloson went down with a series-ending knee injury. Conklin allowed the game-winning goal in the final minute of regulation on a miscommunication with his defenseman, and MacTavish opted to try Markkanen in Game 2.
Regardless of his reasons to start the Finnish goaltender, the Oilers played arguably their worst game of the playoffs in Wednesday's 5-0 defeat to the Hurricanes. The heavy forechecking, aggressive play and willingness to block shots defensively that marked eighth-seeded Edmonton's stirring run to the finals all were absent, and the Oilers played with a complete lack of discipline by taking 10 penalties.
"I don't know if anybody planted some seeds of doubt or some built-in excuses where Dwayne is out now so it's going to be that much more difficult," Oilers center Michael Peca said. "Obviously when you lose your No. 1 goalie, the task will become at times a little bit more difficult. We still need to play our game.
"We need to find a way to be who we are. We still control, as forwards, as defensemen, what our game is. Regardless of what goalie is in there it shouldn't affect the way we play."
Oilers veteran forward Ryan Smyth knows Markkanen deserves no blame despite Wednesday's loss.
"There's no question we could have played better in front of him," Smyth he. "Hopefully we can rebound for him in the next game."
Markkanen said he is excited to get a chance to redeem himself in front of the home fans.
"Obviously these are the biggest games in the hockey world," said Markkanen, whose last win came on Jan. 25 in Anaheim. "It's really exciting, and it's going to be a really exciting moment on Saturday when we hit the home ice."
Edmonton is trying to become just the fourth team in Stanley Cup finals history to win the series after losing the first two games. The 1971 Montreal Canadiens were the last to accomplish the feat.
"By no means is this over with," Smyth said Thursday. "We're not going to roll over and die. We know they're a good hockey team. We can improve."
The Hurricanes are two wins from their first Stanley Cup in franchise history and their veterans - including Glen Wesley, Rod Brind'Amour and Ray Whitney - realize the importance of not letting the Oilers get back in this series.
"When you've been around a while, you realize how tough it is to get here and how tough it is to get back," the 34-year-old Whitney said. "Back in the '80s, everyone expected the Oilers to be in it every year. But with the new economics, anybody can compete, anybody can move up to challenge for a championship. You've got to enjoy the opportunity, seize the opportunity and understand how valuable it is."
That urgency has filtered to the younger Carolina players, most notably 21-year-old center Eric Staal, who has a team-high 15 assists and 22 points in the postseason.
"After Game 6 against Buffalo, we got a bit of a talk from the older guys," Staal said. "They've all been around a long time and never won the Stanley Cup. They wanted the younger guys to realize that it's not going to happen every year. You've got to take advantage when you get the chance.
"We're all playing hard for them - and ourselves."
Carolina had three power-play goals in Wednesday's rout, with Matt Cullen getting assists on all three. Mark Recchi added a goal and an assist for the Hurricanes, who have won 14 of their last 18 playoff games after losing their first two contests to Montreal in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.
Game 4 is on Monday in Edmonton.
HOW THEY GOT HERE: Hurricanes - 112 points, 2nd seed; beat Montreal Canadiens 4-2, Eastern Conference quarterfinals; beat New Jersey Devils 4-1, semifinals; beat Buffalo Sabres 4-3, finals. Oilers - 95 points, 8th seed; beat Detroit Red Wings 4-2, Western Conference quarterfinals; beat San Jose Sharks 4-2, semifinals; beat Anaheim Mighty Ducks 4-1, finals.
PLAYOFF TEAM LEADERS: Hurricanes - Brind'Amour, 11 goals; Staal, 15 assists and 22 points; Justin Williams, 30 PIM. Oilers - Fernando Pisani, 10 goals; Chris Pronger, 14 assists and 19 points; Georges Laraque, 44 PIM.
PLAYOFF SPECIAL TEAMS: Hurricanes - Power play: 26.0 percent (26 for 100). Penalty killing: 84.8 percent (89 for 105). Oilers - Power play: 18.4 percent (20 for 109). Penalty killing: 86.8 percent (112 for 129).
GOALTENDERS: Hurricanes - Cam Ward (13-5, 2 SO, 2.06 GAA); Martin Gerber (1-1, 1, 3.53). Oilers - Markkanen (0-1, 5.00); Conklin (0-1, 10.00).