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Oilers feel speed, smarts best assets against Bruins

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Oilers are not a big, strong, heavy team.

So going up against the Boston Bruins on Thursday night at Rexall Place, they won't try to match up physically.

Oilers coach Dallas Eakins concedes it would not be a wise tactic.

"I think it might not be the smartest game plan to try and match them physically," Eakins said. "If you don't match up that way, there's no use trying to do it. I want to use more of our speed, and our smarts against them.

"I'm not sure if they're as big as they have been in the past. They still have some heavy guys, but I want to get into a game where we're playing quick with really good puck support, and if we do have to give up the puck, then we're going to be first to it. To go in and try to match a team like this physically, I don't think it gives us a chance to win the game."

The Bruins go into the game with a depleted lineup due to injury and the indefinite suspension of left wing Shawn Thornton. The Bruins are also battling the flu, which has afflicted both goaltenders. Chad Johnson was too sick to start against the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night. Tuukka Rask skipped practice Wednesday, forcing the Bruins to put out a call for a local university goaltender, Kurtis Mucha, to fill in.

The Bruins did not hold a morning skate Thursday.

Regardless, the Oilers know they're still in for a tough challenge.

"They have a big team, that's kind of their identity, they play physical," Oilers right wing Jordan Eberle said. "They're strong, much like an L.A. in the Western Conference. The way we're going to beat this team is to move the puck quickly and use our speed to our advantage.

"We may be a smaller team, but we can win battles too and play physical as well. You can't let that intimidate you."

Oilers defenseman Jeff Petry will return to the lineup after sitting out a game with concussion symptoms. Petry was forced to leave the game against the Flames on Saturday after being sandwiched by David Jones and Sven Baertschi, and hitting his head on the glass.

Petry sat out the Oilers' 5-4 overtime win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.

Oilers defenseman Andrew Ference will also be playing his first game against his former team. Ference spent parts of seven seasons with the Bruins, winning a Stanley Cup in 2011, before signing with the Oilers as a free agent.

He's familiar with what to expect from the Bruins, who go in having won their previous three and five of their past six.

"You can't expect to have any success by being half-committed," Ference said. "It's a tough brand of hockey that is hard to play against and takes advantage of teams that aren't ready for them.

"If they're allowed to, they'll impose their will on you. It's a good test, that's why teams feel it's always a good test to play against them. It shows what kind of character you have in your room and who's willing to buck up for the tough games."

Devan Dubnyk will make his fifth consecutive start in goal for the Oilers with Ilya Bryzgalov still recovering from a neck injury sustained in a win against the Dallas Stars on Dec. 1.

The Bruins goaltender is expected to be a game-time decision.

"When I think about Boston, I just think about winning," Eakins said. "It seems they're able to do it, however you want to play it.

"They have their team structured that they can play the game any way you would like. They have great discipline, they're very comfortable in any game. Their structure to their game is incredible and how it's been over the last number of years."

Here are the expected lineups for each team:


Milan LucicDavid KrejciJarome Iginla

Brad MarchandPatrice BergeronReilly Smith

Carl SoderbergRyan SpoonerMatt Fraser

Nick JohnsonGregory CampbellJordan Caron

Zdeno CharaJohnny Boychuk

Dennis SeidenbergTorey Krug

Matt BartkowskiKevan Miller

Tuukka Rask

Chad Johnson

Scratched: Shawn Thornton (suspended)

Injured: Dougie Hamilton (lower body), Loui Eriksson (concussion), Daniel Paille (upper body), Chris Kelly (broken ankle), Adam McQuaid (lower body)


David PerronRyan Nugent-HopkinsJordan Eberle

Taylor HallSam GagnerNail Yakupov

Jesse JoensuuMark ArcobelloAles Hemsky

Luke GazdicAnton LanderRyan Jones

Andrew FerencePhilip Larsen

Nick SchultzJustin Schultz

Anton BelovJeff Petry

Devan Dubnyk

Jason LaBarbera

Scratched: Martin Marincin, Corey Potter

Injured: Ilya Bryzgalov (neck), Ryan Smyth (neck), Boyd Gordon (shoulder), Richard Bachman (groin)

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