Tonight marks the first of only two meetings this season between Edmonton and Carolina. The last time the two faced off against one another, was December of 2011. For two franchises that don't play often, only 18 times in the series history, the Oilers will have to do a little bit more scouting in preparation for tonight.
"You have to do a little bit more research," said Oilers goaltender Devan Dubnyk. "But I think, watching enough games obviously, and I've played with a few guys on the other side there. You understand what kind of players they are. You really just want to be aware of tendencies. You don't want to think too much about it or try to be guessing what they're going to do. You just want to be aware of if they're really good at something and if they're going to come off the goal line or drive to the net hard. Those are just things that you want to be aware of and prepared for and not think too much about it."
Head Coach Dallas Eakins doesn't believe it affects a team too much, when they play an unfamiliar opponent.
"In the league, there's about three different ways teams are playing," said Eakins. "They could forecheck one way, neutral zone a different way, whatever it is. We've already seen it all. It shouldn't be any problem to adjust to anything. Other than we don't see their players a whole lot, the systems, we've all seen the same. We've seen the same kind of grind, the same skill level, the same kind of goaltending. For me, it's really no different than playing teams that you normally play. There's probably just a little less hatred."
Despite the unfamiliarity, the Oilers know what they're up against.
"We know they've got some size up front and they play with a lot of pace," said Oilers centre Sam Gagner. "For us, I think our focus in the last little while has just been on us and making sure that we play with speed and confidence and play hard defensively. If we can do that, we really shouldn't worry much about what other teams bring. That's going to be our focus again tonight."
Every NHL game brings a level of importance for having a quick start. Although the Hurricanes played last night in Vancouver, the Oilers learned the hard way not to give teams like that a chance to stay in the game.
"We can learn from our game against Calgary (on Saturday)," said Gagner. "I felt like we came out and tried to gauge the pace of that game a little bit as opposed to going out and setting the pace. I still felt that we played well against Calgary but we weren't able to come out with a win. If we can get that first one and kind of go from there, it will definitely help us. We need to focus on that tonight."
Dictating the pace is something the Oilers will try to do tonight, says Gagner.
"We played well. I felt we deserved a better fate against Calgary. It felt like, at times, we were trying to do too much. Because of that, we weren't able to create as much as we had wanted. I think it's just keeping the same mentality and make sure we are ready to start this game and come out and set the pace as opposed to seeing how it goes and go from there. If we can set the pace tonight and make them play at our pace, it will benefit us a lot."
The Oilers have rotated wins and losses, back-to-back, since November 21. That is eight games straight in which the Oilers have not won or lost back-to-back games.
"It's better than losing all of them I guess, right?," said forward Mark Arcobello. "I think we've found a lot of good things lately that we've been doing. If we can apply those on a nightly basis and play simple and smart every night and complete 60 minutes every night, I think we'll start to get a lot more wins than losses."
The Oilers are 6-3-1 in their last 10 games.
PETRY LIKELY OUT
The Oilers continue to evaluate defenceman Jeff Petry after he went hard into the glass against Calgary, eventually leaving the game with a head injury.
"He's got a protocol that he needs to go through," said Eakins. "He's feeling better everyday, but we've got to adhere to the protocol. Hopefully everything keeps going well and he'll be back out there soon."
Petry says he feels much better and he expects to be back in the lineup very soon.
"That's what I'm hoping for," he said.
JONES GOOD TO GO
Ryan Jones limped off the ice late in practice yesterday after taking a puck off of the skate.
"It couldn't have been later in practice without walking to the room," said Jones. "(Anton Belov) took a shot and it skipped funny off the ice and I couldn't get my foot out of the way. It didn't feel good."
Jones was sporting some new protection on his skate today at morning skate, shot blockers.
"It's Christmas time so I decided to throw some ornaments on our feet and see how they'd go."
Jones says it wasn't just for today's skate that he'd don the extra protection, he'll wear the guards tonight as well.
"I'll wear them tonight too. I've took a couple of pucks in the last couple games and I need to protect myself a little better, I guess."
Big story: Carolina continues its four-game road trip, which started with a 2-0 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Monday thanks to a 31-save performance by rookie goalie Eddie Lack. The Oilers will be aiming to bounce back from a 2-1 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames on Saturday.
Hurricanes: Carolina did manage 31 shots on goal Monday, but Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller thought his club didn't do a good enough job of creating havoc in front of Lack, who recorded his first NHL shutout.
Carolina had its three-game win streak snapped.
"We wanted to get more traffic in front," Muller said. "We got some pucks to the net, but he saw a lot of them so we didn't get the screen and tip plays we were hoping for. He saw a lot of those shots and he's a big goalie, so he's going to make those saves."
Oilers: With four goals and two assists, forward Taylor Hall was named the NHL's Second Star of the Week on Monday. Hall's production has played in a role in the Oilers building some confidence in recent weeks in an attempt to claw their way out of the basement and up the Western Conference standings.
"Taylor Hall is always going to get his offense, he is," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins told the team website. "He's strong, he has speed, he's got good vision and he has good hands. The place that Taylor is improving, not only from the eyes of the coaches but our people upstairs, is his defensive play. It's small, little things that we have been promoting with him and he's taken to heart and he's getting better at. He's turning into a much more rounded player and he's a horse. When he's on, he carries our team. He gives us energy and he's a guy that we look to, to produce in a number of different situations. He's been very good as of late."
Who's hot: Besides Hall, left wing David Perron is also rolling. Perron has a five-game point streak (four goals, three assists).