OILERS 2 - FLYERS 0
The Oilers and Flyers don't always meet at Rexall Place. But when they do, the home side prefers a shutout.
The clubs last met in Edmonton on Feb. 3, 2010 when the orange and blue snagged a 1-0 victory.
Tonight, Taylor Hall
and Jordan Eberle
each scored, while Devan Dubnyk
stopped 35 shots, thwarting the league's highest scoring team by a 2-0 score.
AT THE MORNING SKATEEdmonton, AB - In the very same spot at Rexall Place where Wayne Gretzky slid his fifth goal of the night into the empty cage to capture an untouchable NHL record on Dec. 30, 1981, Jordan Eberle and Taylor Hall were doing the same at the Oilers' morning skate, directly beneath The Great One's retired banner on the rink's east side – a glimpse back or a reminder, even, of the club's great rivalry with the Philadelphia Flyers as they wrapped up practice by tossing pucks into the awaiting four-by-six.
The 1987 Stanley Cup Final was another and, while tonight's encounter won't match the importance or up-tempo intensity that a clash for the league's title promises, these rare, once-a-season matchups with the Broad Street Bullies continue to be marked on the players' calendars.
"They're obviously a great team," said veteran Andy Sutton who, in his career, as notched a pair of goals and eight points against the Flyers. "They've got a lot of notoriety and a lot of great players, so it brings our attention level up and really allows us focus on what we're doing, which is exactly what we need.
"It's mostly about where we're at and where we want to get to. It's all about us. We're trying to build something that's stable and consistent. We had a great game the other night in Calgary, so we're really going to try and play the same way: put pucks in the right area, take away their time and space and be really stingy in the neutral zone.
"We want to work them over the same way we did with the Flames."
Jus as Sutton explained, the Oilers' mindset heading into tonight's game is that of more recent history. It was a complete effort the other night at the Saddledome, and it helped result in the club's best – and, perhaps, most rewarding – game of the 2011-12 campaign.
"The way we won that game was really special," said Associate Coach Ralph Krueger, who collected his first win as an NHL head coach. "It was a very complete game. It's always a combination. I thought the opposition didn't find their groove at all and couldn't bring much emotion to the table that day.
"Managing the lead and dealing with the goal against," he added about what was particularly positive about the Oilers' rout. "Both of those situations showed a maturity that we maybe haven't felt yet this season. Going down 1-0, there wasn't a heartbeat missed on the bench."
Knowing that the Flyers' scoring attack is as lethal as they come (Max Talbot is on Philly's fourth line, and he's still managed to score 17 goals this year), the Oilers are especially eager to counteract their opponent's style with something similar.
"They have the most goals in the league, so that's something that we have to be aware of," said Tom Gilbert, who will continue to be paired with Sutton in tonight's game. "We've got to be real concerned with what we're doing with the puck, where you're making passes, making sure pucks are getting deep and knowing where your guy is. They're a great transition team.
"They're sending three-four guys all the time, so our transition game could also be good, too. We could use that against them. You don't want to do a scoring game, back-and-forth with these guys, but we can be patient and wait for them to make mistakes."
Taylor Hall, who's climbing back to a point-per-game pace after having scored a goal and an assist in Tuesday's 6-1 throttling of the Flames, hasn't yet faced the Flyers in his career but is excited about tonight's opportunity.
"They score a lot of goals," he said, matter-of-factly. "With (Claude) Giroux, (Scott) Hartnell and (Wayne) Simmonds, that line is going to have to be something that we shut down. That's what drives their team (goal-scoring). They had a good win in Winnipeg and we know that they've been in a win-one, lose-one situation for the last little bit here. I'm sure they're trying to get momentum and get ahead in the playoff race, so we've got to shut that down."
Getting the opportunity to skate against a legendary NHL superstar, Jaromir Jagr, may also provide an additional boost to Hall's already passionate game.
"I've said it a lot, but one of the best things about playing in the NHL is to be able to play against the best players that have ever lived," he explained. "You can learn a thing or two about a guy like that.
"He's a legend in this game."
Just like those whose numbers hang proudly above the ice at Rexall Place.
There will be no changes to the lineup, meaning Ryan Jones will continue to sit as a healthy scratch and Devan Dubnyk will get the start in goal. Ilya Bryzgalov will get the call on the other side.
-- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com - Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick