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Oilers will play out the stretch drive at home

13 of the Oilers final 18 games will be played at Rogers Place

by Paul Gazzola /

With only 18 games left in the regular season - 13 of which to be played at Rogers Place - the Oilers are firmly entrenched in the stretch drive.

"It's a good thing to finish off the season in this long stretch here at home," said Oilers centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. "We got a good opportunity to really keep grinding here and keep getting some big points."

Edmonton is 15-10-3 at home and was developing a winning pedigree in the month of January when they went 4-2-1 as hosts. The team then only played three home games in February, going 2-1-0.

"That last road trip was a long one so it's nice to be home for a while and really establish ourselves at home," Nugent-Hopkins said. "The way that we kind of played at our last home stand, it gives us the confidence to play well in our building."

While it's comforting to finally get a night's rest in your own bed and not have to spend long hours on flights, there's an adjustment period when returning home.

"The initial concern coming home is just coming home," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "When you're on the road, you get into that rhythm. When you come home, at least I felt it in my world, there's a lot of things you have to get done. You haven't been around for two weeks. So, you scramble to do that and now this game shows up."

Of the final 13 home games, five will be played against Eastern Conference squads and eight will be played versus the Western Conference. The Oilers are 12-13-2 when stacked against teams from the East. Versus the West, the team is 22-9-6.

Saturday's showdown with the Detroit Red Wings is imperative to set the tone.

"You want to start off strong and build from there," said Nugent-Hopkins. "We need a good start because sometimes you can kind of be dull after a long road trip but we got to find a way to come out hard and establish ourselves right away."

The Oilers are second in the Pacific Division with 76 points after 64 games.

"We've got to get some momentum, we've got to establish ourselves again here at home," said McLellan. "As it goes on, we want to use the practice time as wisely as we can and continue to grow our game. Make sure that we're polishing things up in areas where we haven't had that practice time and then apply it and see if it's working."

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