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Oilers wrap up road trip against Stars

by Mike Battaglino

OILERS (8-17-2) at STARS (12-9-3)


Last 10: Edmonton 4-6-0; Dallas 6-3-1

Season series: The Dallas Stars defeated the Edmonton Oilers 3-0 on Nov. 13. Kari Lehtonen made 22 saves while Dallas was in the midst of winning six out of seven.

Big story: The Stars will begin life without defenseman Stephane Robidas, who fractured his leg Friday in a 2-1 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. The 36-year-old veteran has not missed more than 10 games in a season since 2003-04.

"It's going to be a void that has to be filled by someone. I think for us collectively as a group, we have to step up," Robidas' defense partner, Brenden Dillon, told the Stars' website Saturday. "He's a big part of this D corps. He's a guy that plays all situations and he plays big minutes. Last night we did a pretty good job, but he's out 4-6 months and it's not like he is going to be back next week. We are going to have to make some adjustments."

Team Scope:

Oilers: Edmonton is wrapping up a road trip of three games in four nights. After defeating the Nashville Predators 3-0 on Thanksgiving, the Oilers lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 Friday after trailing 4-0.

"It would have been a lot better if we could have won this one tonight," Jordan Eberle told the Oilers' website Friday. "You'd get a lot of momentum going into Dallas, but you get a day off, regroup here. The best part about hockey is you get a chance to play again. It's not like football where you have to wait a week. We get a day here to regroup our minds [then] play a team that's playing well. It's a must-win for us. We've got to start making up some ground."

Coach Dallas Eakins said the poor start Friday was a reflection of the Oilers' conditioning, which caused a lack of faceoff success, penalties, and mental mistakes.

"Our goal ... is to arrive at a fitness level that you can play hard in back-to-back games," he said. "... It's going to take a while. You can't get in shape in two weeks or three months. This takes time to get to a level. ... It's something that we're not going to lay off of because I firmly believe that we looked fatigued."

Stars: Dallas will initially use Jamie Oleksiak (called up from the Texas Stars on Saturday) or Kevin Connauton to replace Robidas, but could turn to Aaron Rome when he recovers from an injury sustained at practice this week.

"We've got three guys here. It's a great opportunity," general manager Jim Nill said. "It's tough when you lose a leader like Stephane, but it's a great opportunity for other guys now. You know there are going to be injuries in this League and that's what you have to deal with."

The Stars are likely to slide the replacement alongside Dillon and maintain the pairs of Alex Goligoski-Trevor Daley and Jordie Benn-Sergei Gonchar.

"We're going to talk about it," coach Lindy Ruff said. "We used Stephane in a huge role when it came to defending against top lines. If we have to break up our other pairs to change the defending aspect of it, or if we can weigh the fact of putting Oleksiak and use him as a defender against other top lines, or switch up the pairs and get Connauton back in the lineup, we'll discuss that today. The tough part is the other pairs have started to play pretty well for us, and I don't know if I want to disrupt them. We'll figure that out."

Who's hot: Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has eight points in a five-game streak. Eberle has eight points in his past five games. … Stars forward Rich Peverley has a three-game point streak. Forward Cody Eakin has five points in his past five games.

Injury report: Oilers forward Boyd Gordon (undisclosed) sat out the third period Friday. Defenseman Philip Larsen (back), goalie Richard Bachman (lower body) and Tyler Pitlick (knee) are out. … Rome (muscle) skated after practice Saturday.

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