OILERS 3 - SHARKS 2 (SO)
The Oilers stormed back from 1-0 and 2-1 deficits, but the third time wasn't a charm, as Logan Couture's early third-period power-play goal vaulted the Sharks ahead one last time, as the visitors escaped with a 3-2 win on Monday night at Rexall Place.Devan Dubnyk
made 30 saves in the loss, while Ryan Whitney
and Taylor Hall
scored the Oilers goals..
AT THE MORNING SKATEEdmonton, AB - It's not post-season hockey, but it's as close as the Oilers will get this year. That's how Head Coach Tom Renney, Sam Gagner and others look at their team's latest quest, as the 11th-place San Jose Sharks visit Rexall Place.
It'll be a similar matchup to Saturday's Northwest Division battle at the Pepsi Center, in which the home side escaped with a hard-fought, 3-2 win in a shootout. The victory pulled the Avalanche into a three-way tie for eighth, putting the Sharks behind them all, two points back with 15 games to play.
"It better be," Renney deadpanned, describing his team's get-up-and-go attitude in challenging a desperate team. "It doesn't matter what the other team's circumstances are, to be honest with you. Our circumstance is what it is and we need to show what we want to be moving forward. [San Jose is] a team that's respected in this league; we really do need to come out and play hard here. Yes, they're a desperate team and that's good for us, because we need to face that.
"What I do talk about under these circumstances is the need to be an active participant -- to play every game for the purpose that it should be, and that's two points and building legitimacy as a team."
Sam Gagner, who's amassed two goals and three assists in the Oilers' last 10 games as they've gone 4-5-1, agreed with his coach's sentiments.
"They've got a lot of desperation right now," he said, noting the Sharks' listless 2-6-2 record in their last 10 games. "They're a really good team over there, so we've got to respect that. That'll bring out the best in us, playing against teams like this. It's as close as we're going to get to playoff hockey this year, so we've got to focus on coming in here and stealing two points from them. If we can do that and put a damper in their playoff hopes, it's going to be a good feeling for us."
While the Oilers' season has been a disappointing one, standings-wise, making up ground on anyone is nearly impossible. But, a .500 end to the 2011-12 campaign would ensure the orange and blue's improvement from season's past – 11 points on the past two seasons' 62-point conclusions.
It makes sense, then, to hand the reigns to a man with similar aspirations. Devan Dubnyk, who's collected eight wins in his last 15 starts and has notched a 14-16-1 record all season long.
The 25-year-old was likely to start on Saturday in Denver, but it was revealed last minute that Nikolai Khabibulin would get the call due to a minor groin pull to the club's sophomore netminder.
In speaking with Dubnyk at the morning skate, it was revealed that the injury had been sustained during Thursday's practice, prior to the Oilers' encounter with the Montreal Canadiens at Rexall Place.
"In talking to Devan and (Head Athletic Therapist) T.D. (Forss), if we needed him he could have gone in to play, but you just don't take chances with goalies and groins. It's that simple, so I was concerned," Renney explained.
16-9-4. That's how dominant the Oilers once were at Rexall Place; but the mighty have fallen, posting a 1-6-1 record in their past eight, since winning games over the Chicago Blackhawks and Detroit Red Wings in early February.
With 14 games to play and seven on the schedule at Rexall, the Oilers know that success at the corner of 118th ave and Wayne Gretzky Drive is essential to end the 2011-12 season strong.
"The desire to do well here is there, but the inability to do it properly has sort of seeped in," Renney said. "Sometimes we overcomplicate things when we just need to go out and play. For us anyway, it's about energy, it's about the passion to play, it's about pushing our M.O. to our opponent instead of sitting back and seeing what they might do. We need to go after them, and when we play like that we're okay."
Of Gagner's 42 points this season, 22 have come in 29 games at home (eight were recorded in one night, mind you). He, too, believes it's about pushing their own agenda on their opponent. Keeping things simple is Job 1 as the Oilers look to improve on a 2-1-0 season-series lead.
"I don't know," he laughed. "We can't really worry too much about whether we're at home or on the road; but we do want to feed off the crowd here and try not to do too much.
"We've got to develop some good chemistry throughout our lines so that we don't have those (period-by-period) lapses. We've made some costly mistakes at home and on the road that have really come back to bite us in the end. If we can play a solid 60 minutes and limit our mistakes, we should be okay.
"We've got to play solid both ways," he added about what's needed to counter the Sharks' attack. "If we're turning pucks over and giving up things behind us, they're going to make us pay."
NEED-TO-KNOW: Ben Eager, back from a battle with the flu, will be reinserted on the fourth line alongside Eric Belanger and Lennart Petrell. Darcy Hordichuk will sit as the healthy scratch.