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PRE-GAME REPORT: Oilers at Penguins

by Chris Wescott / Edmonton Oilers



News, notes and more from Oilers practice on Thursday.





PITTSBURGH, PA - The Oilers were able to steal a point in Detroit, but that’s not the goal in Pittsbugh. Edmonton will try and take two when they duel with the Penguins at Consol Energy Center.

They’ll likely do so with a bolstered blueline, due to the pending return of Justin Schultz. The Oilers defenceman has missed every game since October 25, while dealing with a bulging disc in his back.

He was activated off IR this morning, while the team assigned Griffin Reinhart to Bakersfield.

“The back is good,” said Schultz. “It’s ready to go, 100 percent. I’m looking forward to getting back out there. It should take a couple shifts to get back into it, I’ve missed a month. Looking forward to getting back out there with the guys and helping them win.”

Schultz has played nine games this season.

“I felt like I had a good start,” said Schultz. “I was playing pretty solid, I thought. It’s tough to get injured, but nothing you can do. It’s part of the game. Just trying to come back and pick up where I left off.”

Another new addition to the lineup could be Jujhar Khaira. The 21-year-old forward was playing in Bakersfield when he was recalled yesterday by the Oilers. He will likely make his NHL debut tonight in Pittsburgh.

“It’s going to be exciting if I do,” said Khaira. “There’s going to be a lot of emotions, it will be good. It will be a lot of fun. It’s a day I’ve been looking forward to all my life.”

Khaira has seven points (3-4-7) in 16 AHL games this season. In his second year of pro hockey, Khaira has made strides in his game per reports from the farm.

“I think I’ve found my game,” he said. “I’m definitely more confident. I know what I need to do when I’m out there, what kind of player I need to be and a lot of it has to do with being a big body and creating room for myself and others.”

Khaira is a big, physical forward who will try to be assertive tonight against a skilled Penguins club.

“There’s always a little nerves. At the same time, I’m going to try to approach it like any other game and go out there and try to have a good start and carry it through the rest of the game,” said Khaira.

If the Oilers want to leave Pittsburgh with two points, they’ll likely have to win the special teams battle. Pittsburgh has a power play goal in five straight games and is 5-1-1 win winning the special teams battle. They are 1-5 when they lose it.

The Oilers did not skate this morning, having flown in from Detroit last night. The lineup will be announced during warmups.

-- Chris Wescott,




OILERS (7-14-2) at PENGUINS (13-8-1)


Season series:
The Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 at Rexall Place on Nov. 6. Phil Kessel scored the game-winning goal midway through the third period. Defenseman Oscar Klefbom scored the Oilers' goal in the first period.

Oilers team scope:
There is a chance defenseman Justin Schultz will return to the lineup after missing 14 games with a back injury. Cam Talbot was in goal in a 4-3 overtime loss at the Detroit Red Wings on Friday. He made 28 saves in his first start in two weeks. "He made some very good saves in the first half of the game, where we didn't have the puck very much," coach Todd McLellan told the Oilers website. "I think that was pretty evident. He needed to make some real big saves to give us a chance to crawl back into it." Goalie Anders Nilsson started the previous four games for the Oilers. Forward Jujhar Khaira, recalled from Bakersfield of the American Hockey League on Wednesday after Nail Yakupov was injured, did not play against the Red Wings. Edmonton is 0-2-1 with two games remaining on this five-game trip.

Penguins team scope:
Backup goaltender Jeff Zatkoff will make his fourth start of the season after Marc-Andre Fleury made 41 saves in a 2-1 overtime loss at the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday. Zatkoff got the victory in Edmonton earlier this month, making 26 saves. Sidney Crosby, who left the game in Columbus briefly after being cross-checked in the neck late in the second period, returned to the game and extended his point streak to four games when he set up Evgeni Malkin for a power-play goal midway through the third period. Crosby has three goals and five points during this stretch. "I'm OK," said Crosby, who left with 1:20 remaining in the second period but was back for the start of the third. There always concern when it happens, but I'm OK."

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