CALGARY - On trade deadline day, the Oilers made one acquisition -- Jerred Smithson from the Florida Panthers -- but on the ice at the Saddledome in Calgary, the focus was on tonight's game and an opportunity to move into sole possession of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
"This is a situation where we finally have a chance to be in a playoff spot. It's exciting. Every game means something and all the guys feel like they're part of something," said Jordan Eberle.
Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger stated that the team can't take the Flames lightly and need to be better than they were at Rexall Place in a 4-1 win Monday.
"The respect of what they're potentially capable of as a group. They played really hard in our building the other night and everything went our way," said Krueger. "In a lot of portions of the game, they were the better team and deserved more than that score. We need to respect what they're bringing at us today. It'll be a tough, tight game here today."
Krueger added that the team can't look too far ahead even though they know that they would move into a playoff spot with a victory over the Flames tonight.
"The emotions of our whole situation right now and staying calm, controlled and patient in this process. Stay in the day like we have been for the past two weeks and we need to work hard and that's what this group has been all about."
Ryan Jones echoed his coach's comments.
"I think you have to gather yourself over the day off. We talked a little bit in the room this morning about just getting back to playing the way we did against Vancouver. That's up there with our best 60-minute hockey that we've played in awhile," Jones began. "We have to allow our D to get a little bit of a breather. We played a lot of time in our own zone -- whether it was them on the outside and they did get some good scoring chances for sure -- when your D is playing in your own zone for that long, it's taxing."
The Oilers will be going with the exact same lineup tonight as they did against both Calgary and Vancouver:
Hall - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle Paajarvi - Gagner - Hemsky Jones - Horcoff - Yakupov Petrell - Smyth - Brown
Smid - Petry Schultz - Schultz Whitney - Potter
SMITHSON ADDED TO OILERS
Oilers head coach Ralph Krueger was asked to comment on what Smithson brings to the team.
"Smithson will add to our defensive structure. He was a top-minute penalty killer his last few seasons in Nashville. He was a top-three for Florida now too in the one year with them. He's a 53/54% face-off guy and defensive centreman that brings size and depth into our group that we can use."
The Oilers also didn't move any players out on deadline day and Krueger was happy about that, stating that he likes the group he has.
"I'm content with the players we have here. I love the group, I love what they're doing. Everybody's all-in here on their roles and I'm a content coach."
Krueger added that he has avoided a lot of the trade talk speculation that's occurred over the past few weeks.
"We are here to make the playoffs. I've kept myself very far away from any potential changes," said Krueger, stating that the team has no timeline on him right now. "I need to know what is and not what could be. It's a signal that we are here to do everything possible to make the playoffs."
The addition of Smithson helps fill the void left by Eric Belanger's injury.
"It's a soft-tissue injury that's really difficult to monitor the time on it. That he had two relapses shows that it could be a long-term injury. We wish him well and he would increase our depth. Our roster numbers don't matter after tomorrow so if we have 15 or 16 forwards and eight defencemen we're fine with that as coaches. It just gives us depth."
Smithson is expected to join the team for the California portion of their current four-game road trip.
-- Marc Ciampa, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
Last 10: Edmonton 6-2-2; Calgary 4-6-0
Season series: This is the third of four meetings, with the home team winning each of the first two encounters. On Monday, Edmonton used three first-period goals to take the first half of the current home-and-home series, 4-1.
Big story: Edmonton is chasing its first postseason appearance since 2005-06, and will look to secure another valuable two points Wednesday against the rebuilding Flames. The Oilers – winners of four straight – are even on points with the Columbus Blue Jackets and just a point behind the eighth-place St. Louis Blues.
Oilers: As recently as March 8, when the Oilers lost their fifth game in a row, Edmonton looked as if it would be hamstrung by the same inconsistency and youth that has plagued it in recent seasons. But as March progressed, so did the Oilers. Since that loss to the Predators, the Oilers have gone 7-2-2 to propel them into the thick of the crowded Western Conference postseason race. Most recently, four straight wins in which Edmonton has outscored opponents 17-5, including two shutouts, has shown that the Oilers can be prolific offensively without sacrificing the defensive principles necessary to reach the postseason.
All that progression was on display Monday, when Edmonton scored three times on their first six shots and Devan Dubnyk made 33 saves for the 4-1 win. Still, many Oilers weren’t happy that they took their foot off the gas after a fast start.
"I thought it was good that we didn't feel good about the way we played all the way through the game today," coach Ralph Krueger said. "It's a sign of the maturity of the group. The wins and losses are critical right now, but how we play and maintain this run is important. We feel confident right now and just want to keep nudging as a group."
Flames: Just as their provincial rivals are looking toward the playoffs, Calgary appears to be taking a broader view of things. The Flames’ playoff aspirations are fading fast – despite sitting just eight points below the final playoff position, five teams are jostling between them and a berth – and Calgary has gone 2-6-0 over its past eight games. In addition, the Flames have dealt two key players, captain Jarome Iginla and defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, over the past week, as general manager Jay Feaster appears prepared to shake up the status quo.
Against Edmonton, Miikka Kiprusoff was pulled after conceding three goals on six shots and Brian McGratten scored his team’s only goal with a minute and a half to play.
"We gave them some odd-man rushes, and if you get caught standing around, you are going to pay," Matt Stajan said. "They caught us napping for those first two goals and we were chasing them for the rest of the night."
Who’s hot: Taylor Hall netted a natural hat trick against the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, then bagged another goal and an assist against Calgary. Hall has six goals and four assists over his past five games. … The Flames have won 11 of 12 against the Oilers at Scotiabank Saddledome, and carry a season mark of 10-6-2 in Calgary.
Injury report: Eric Belanger (groin) is day-to-day for the Oilers, while Andy Sutton (knee) is out indefinitely. … Calgary’s Paul Byron is out indefinitely with a hand injury.