The Boston Bruins are in town and present a new challenge to the Edmonton Oilers tonight.
"I think it's more fun or players like me to play against teams that are bigger and play that kind of style, instead of a fast and smaller style teams that are maybe more skilled," said Oilers forward Jesse Joensuu. "I'm really looking forward to it. It's a great challenge."
It's no secret that the Bruins are one of the NHL's most well known group of 'tough guys'. They are a team that likes to set the tone physically in every game, right from the opening whistle.
"It's great," said Oilers 'tough guy' Luke Gazdic. "These are the games I look forward to, big physical match ups. Just having pride to not let them walk in here into our building and not let them steamroll right over us. That's what I look forward to, games like this."
For some of Edmonton's smaller forwards, tonight presents even more of a challenge. However, the team feels they're ready to combat the Bruins as long as they play their game and not Boston's.
"I go about it the same as I have against every other team so far," said Mark Arcobello. "Every night is a new challenge and this is just another one of those nights that I just have to stick to my game and play like I've been playing recently. Every team that we play has usually got guys that are bigger than me. It's not really a huge difference tonight than any other night. I'll try to get in there as much as I can and throw my weight around as much as I can."
Arcobello, who leads Oilers forwards in hits this season, says while he is not the biggest or strongest guy on the ice, he will still try to set the tone in this game just like his bigger teammates, Joensuu and Gazdic plan to do.
"Those guys are bigger and they might have a little more intimidation behind them with force. But if I can play gritty and get in there and get loose pucks and win battles, that's setting the tone also."
Gazdic says there's a chance that Boston may 'go after' some of the Oilers skilled players, but if the team comes out ready to push back, they should be able to compete.
"That's probably a part of their game plan," said Gazdic. "To be honest, we know what they're saying over there. We have a lot of skill, but they're probably saying we're soft and stuff like that to try to get their players to almost bully us a little bit. We have to come out with the mentality that we're not going to be pushed around like that. It's got to start with guys like me, in my role, from the very first shift, kind of getting after them and finishing checks. If push comes to shove, we're going to stand up for ourselves."
PLAY YOUR GAME
The Oilers don't match up well against Boston from a size standpoint. In order to come away with a win, the team will look to focus primarily on speed and smarts.
"I think it might not be the smartest game plan to try to match them physically," said Head Coach Dallas Eakins. "If you don't match up that way, there's no use trying to do it. I want to use more of our speed and our smarts against it. I'm not sure if they're as big as they've been in the past. They still have some heavy guys but I want to get into a game where we're playing quick with really good puck support and if we do give up the puck, we're going to be first to it. To go in and try to match a team like this physically and get into that, I don't think it gives us a chance to win the game."
Oilers Captain Andrew Ference, who spent five years with the Boston Bruins, gave some inside knowledge on his former team's style of play and how to address it.
"You can't expect to have any success just being half committed," he said. "It's a tough brand of hockey that is hard to play against. It takes advantage of teams that aren't ready for them. I've seen it many times over the years where if they're allowed to, they'll impose their will on you. That's a good test, I think. That's why teams feel it's always a good test to play against them because it shows what kind of character you have in the room and who's willing to buck up for the tough games."
Seeing who is up for the fight is a test for the Oilers.
"No matter who you have for personnel, if you're up for the challenge, it's not about having to fight guys and stuff like that. To score goals, you have to get to their net. You still have to win puck battles and make plays without the fear of getting hit. All those things, that's toughness in my eyes and I think in a lot of peoples eyes is being willing to do that, regardless of size or skill level. It still requires those things to score. If you're not willing to do them, you're not going to have a whole lot of success."
With Sportsnet play-by-play man Kevin Quinn ill, Oilers radio play-by-play man Jack Michaels will be filling in on the Sportsnet broadcast, tonight against Boston.
Bob Stauffer, who normally does the colour commentary, will do the play-by-play for tonight's Oilers broadcast on 630 CHED.
Rob Brown will fill in on colour.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
BRUINS (21-8-2) at OILERS (11-18-3)
TV: NESN, SNET-EDM
Last 10: Boston 7-2-1; Edmonton 6-3-1
Season series: The first of two games. When these teams played Nov. 10, 2011, the Boston Bruins defeated the Edmonton Oilers 6-3 at TD Garden.
Big story: The top seed in the Eastern Conference will square off against the 15th seed in the West. The Oilers, 2-1-1 on a five-game homestand, will look to end it on a high note. The Bruins seem to be hitting their stride, winning three straight (and seven of nine) despite injuries to key players.
Bruins: Overshadowed by Jarome Iginla's return to Calgary on Tuesday was the continued emergence of Boston's young players. With the Bruins skating in quicksand for most of the night -- the Flames outshot the Bruins 20-9 through 40 minutes and held a 1-0 lead heading into the third period -- Torey Krug and Reilly Smith provided a crucial third-period lift. Krug's point shot was deflected by David Krejci for the tying goal, and 98 seconds later Smith scored a fantastic solo goal. That 2-1 result made it a happy homecoming for Iginla.
"As a team, all the way around, in the third period we came out and guys, each line, we got a lot better and it was fun," Iginla said. "We were just pushing for that tying goal and we were able to get it there on the power play and then to see [Smith] go on a nice move. It was fun. Third-period comebacks are always fun and especially in an already memorable game for myself. It was a nice ending."
Shawn Thornton is out; he faces an in-person disciplinary hearing with the NHL Department of Player Safety on Friday.
Oilers: A win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday gave Edmonton seven wins in 11 games, the Oilers' best stretch of the season. However, the 5-4 overtime victory was more dicey than it needed to be. The Oilers had a 4-1 lead early in the second period, but allowed the Hurricanes to chip away at the lead over the final 30 minutes. Jordan Eberle scored the deciding goal 1:48 into overtime
"We played extremely well in the first and for a little bit in the second, and then completely took our foot off the gas," Eberle said. "I don't know what it was, but we just started turning pucks over and losing battles and playing bad defensively. It's frustrating when that happens, but we found a way to win and that's the biggest thing."
Who's hot: Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask has three wins in his past four starts, with a .932 save percentage. … Oilers forward Taylor Hall has five goals and two assists over his past three games.