“The most dangerous dog is a wounded dog and these guys have been wounded,” Oilers Head Coach Dallas Eakins said.
The Carolina Hurricanes (0-4-2) will play the Oilers coming off a 5-0 defeat in Calgary last night. Carolina is still searching for its first win of the season and, as Eakins says, they are wounded.
The Hurricanes have injuries to key players like Eric Staal (upper body) and Jordan Staal (broken leg).
“We understand that and we respect their hunger. It’s definitely a group you can’t take lightly right now,” Eakins said.
AVOIDING A LETDOWN
The Oilers have won two straight games and want nothing to do with seeing that streak end. They see their hard work paying off after an 0-4-1 start to the season.
“It kind of shows that the process is working,” centre Mark Arcobello said. “We definitely needed those two games to boost our confidence a little bit and to show us that if we do things right it will pay off.”
Two wins is not cause for celebration.
“We obviously still have a lot of work to do, we’ve only won two games,” Arcobello said. “We’re still below .500 so we can’t take anyone lightly. We’ve got to come in tonight and stick to what we’ve been doing and what we know works.”
The Oilers get a crack at Carolina this evening, a team that has had its fair share of struggles. With the Oilers seemingly on the upswing, it’s important for them to stay focused and not have a letdown in their play against the visitors.
“They’re going to be hungry, obviously with losing last night in Calgary,” Jordan Eberle said. “They’re going to come out and try to prove a point. We have to make sure that we play our game and we’re on top of the puck and I think special teams is going to be huge tonight too. I think if we can limit the chances they get on their power play and start to create more on ours then that will help a lot.”
The Oilers were in the same spot as the Hurricanes a few games ago, searching for their first win. They’ve also had rough starts in the past so the Oilers are confident they can stay focused.
Taylor Hall said, “I’ve been in this spot plenty of times in my career where you’re not feeling it as a team, you’re coming into another building and you’re maybe thinking, ‘here we go again.’
“These teams are dangerous and they certainly have the skill to put up points. We’re not going to take them lightly, if anything we are going to make sure we have our foot on the pedal right off the start of the game.”
Tonight’s game is fully expected to be just as tough to win as their last two.
“They will be hungry, knowing their group and coaching staff,” Eakins said. “They’ll come out firing on all cylinders and we have to understand that this is just another game in the season and it’s going to be a hard one. It’s a hard one every night.”
The Oilers top centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has strung together a couple of excellent hockey games. He continues to display the results from a summer of hard work and self improvement.
“He’s had a couple of great games in a row,” Hall said. “He’s been a big part of the reason why we’ve been able to hold (Steven) Stamkos and (Alex) Ovechkin off the sheet. Those are guys that come into buildings on a regular basis and do well and put up points. That’s a credit to Nuge and how he’s prepared this off-season and how he’s played this well.”
Nugent-Hopkins needs to show consistency in his high level of play. It’s the next step in his progress as a player the Oilers look to to lead and drive the team.
“I think the biggest thing to watch with him is when he gets determined and he’s driving his legs it’s far different from what we’ve seen in the past,” Eakins said. “There’s a real power there. He’s a calculated guy, he knows how to expend his energy accordingly, it’s never misused. Some guys will go out and you want to play hard and fast but they sometimes waste energy. He knows when to turn it on and when to hold back. He fully understands his importance to our team. When the game starts, we’re always looking for guys like that to drive the pace. We don’t want to look to others, we want to look to him.”
Nugent-Hopkins has two goals and an assist in five games this season. Both of his goals have come in the Oilers two wins.
ROLLING FOUR LINES
The emergence of the Oilers line of Matt Hendricks, Boyd Gordon and Jesse Joensuu has provided the team with an opportunity to do something NHL teams love to do.
“It’s nice to be able to roll four lines,” Arcobello said. “I think you’ve seen the last few games that the ice time is pretty even throughout, with the exception of the first line. It’s cool. It’s nice to get guys out there all the time and keep guys rolling.”
The fourth line has the ability to shutdown opponents’ top guys and provide their own offence.
“I think that’s where a lot of teams want to get to with their lines. We now have a line that we can rely on in our own zone, when there is some heavy lifting to be done. We’ve got a line that can go give us some really good cycle, hard shifts like that and get their chances that way. They’re a line that I can throw out there against another team’s top line if we want to move away from Nuge doing that. They’re wearing a number of different hats, which is encouraging.”