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MORNING SKATE REPORT: Oilers vs. Capitals

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers

MORNING SKATE REPORT

The Oilers are energized coming off their first win of the season, a 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday. The win was a morale boost to a team that was doing some things right but had yet to see the positive results.

“It definitely helped with morale,” Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. “Even if you play some really good hockey and you continue to lose games it’s pretty tough on you. Getting a win for ourselves was huge and for the fans, they were really into the game the other night. We look forward to another good one tonight.”

The Oilers didn’t get down on themselves when Tampa Bay tied the game at 2-2. They buckled up, regained the lead and closed out the victory.

“I definitely think it’s a good sign,” Nugent-Hopkins said. “I think throughout our whole lineup we played a solid game. I really thought that the way that we just stuck with it after they got that second goal and tied it up late. I thought that was a great sign. Nobody had to say anything on the bench really, it was the confidence that we had that we could get the job done. We went out there and did it so it was a good time for us.”

The 1-4-1 Oilers host the 3-0-2 Washington Capitals tonight, in their first of two meetings this season, as they try to continue their success.

DEFENSIVELY SOUND

The Oilers have played two straight defensively sound games, dating back to their 2-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks. The Oilers allowed just one goal (the second was an empty-net goal) against the Canucks and played well against Tampa Bay in their win.

It wasn’t always pretty as prior to these last two games, the Oilers struggled defensively.

“We didn’t do a good job of defending the first few games,” Oilers centre Boyd Gordon said. “Our house area was a little sloppy, and we’ve cleaned that up a bit. It’s some of the things we’ve focused on and we need to continue to do. Hopefully we do a good job of defending and it gives us a chance to win games.”

One of the defensive pairings that deserves some credit for the improvement is the one of Mark Fayne and Martin Marincin. The two were paired together in both games and showed why the team trusts them with tough responsibilities like playing against Steven Stamkos and his line.

That pairing may get a little more ice time moving forward if that trend continues.

“Especially last game, they did a great great job,” Head Coach Dallas Eakins said.

He continued, “Our D is kind of by committee right now. But right now, the way they’re playing, we like them against one of the top two lines if not the top line. Then you’ve got to see where the others are at. Petry has done a real good job in the past. Andrew, that’s what he can bring too. He’s very good defensively. We’re still going through the process to see where everybody is going to fall. It’s more of a committee thing right now, but you’re on the right track there. Fayne has played very very well against the top guys on the other teams and so has Marty since his recall.”

GORDON’S VETERAN PRESENCE

Boyd Gordon plays against his former team tonight when the Capitals come to town. Washington selected the Oilers centre in the first round (17th overall) in 2002. Now Gordon resides in Edmonton, where he’s been a veteran presence for a group of young, inexperienced centres.

“It’s funny how time flies by,” Gordon said. “I’m more experienced now, an older guy and I’m able to give a little bit more of a leadership role. For me, you just try to play the same and bring the same kind of game.”

In a defensive-minded role, Gordon and his linemates have been off to an excellent start to the season. Gordon, Matt Hendricks and Jesse Joensuu have thrived playing their game, which is defence first then creating offensive energy and opportunity on the other end.

“We know we’re going to get a lot of d-zone starts. For us, it’s important to defend well and if we can chip in here and there obviously that helps. We just try to be reliable and play a strong and simple game.”

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