EDMONTON, AB - In the month of March, Edmonton plays 11 of their 13 games at Rogers Place. The stretch drive runs through YEG.
"I think, first and foremost, it's about maintaining a playoff spot," said Oilers defenceman Darnell Nurse. "It's so tight, that we've got to keep our focus playing every game as if it's the game to keep us in the playoffs. That's got to be our mindset here going forward. It's going to be nice to be on home ice here in the month of March, but we've got to take advantage of being able to stay here, be in our routines and be in our own beds and make the most of the opportunity we have."
Tonight, the Oilers host the Detroit Red Wings to kick off an eight-game homestand. The Red Wings come to Rogers Place fresh off a 3-2 overtime loss in Calgary last night that saw them force extra time in the waning seconds of the third.
"They're a team that works hard, and nothing is ever given in this League," said Nurse. "It's going to be a challenge for sure. They played last night, so it's going to be important for us to go out there and get on them from the first shift on. There's a lot of really good players on that side so we've got to make sure we take care of our jobs tonight."
BACK IN THE SADDLE
Nurse now has two games under his belt since returning from a long-term injury that held him out since December 1. After a very brief adjustment period, the blueliner feels like he's hitting his stride.
"I think the first game more than the second game I was just trying to get my bearings again," said Nurse. "Obviously, I was out a while. Even with the adjustments, it went pretty well. Last game I felt strong. I need to keep building off the things I'm doing well and just play hard. I thought it would take a little longer than it has to this point, but I feel good and need to keep contributing."
Nurse played 14:25 in the first game back, but in Tuesday night's win over St. Louis, Nurse saw his minutes upped to 17:40.
FIRST AS AN OILER
The Oilers NHL Trade Deadline acquisition David Desharnais is set to make his debut tonight in orange and blue.
"Of course, it's exciting, but I just want to help the team win," he said.
The former Montreal Canadiens centre is eager to contribute to his new squad. Assisting him in the transition has been a two-day practice period with the Oil.
"I think that helps," said Oilers Head Coach Todd McLellan. "You just feel comfortable in your surroundings and with your teammates… It is more comforting. You get a chance to talk to the coaching staff about structure, you get to understand what their language is, you have a feel for the teammates, you have a feel for the locker room - every locker room feels a little different, there are some that are more vocal, there are some that are loose, there are some that are tight and quiet, and he'll get a feel for that as well over the last couple of days."
"It's good we had the couple days of practice," said Desharnais. "I learned the system here, the foundation, and I'm ready to go."
Desharnais is set to play on the third line between Drake Caggiula and Zack Kassian.
As for the rest of the Oilers lineup, Matt Benning returns in place of the injured Kris Russell. Cam Talbot starts in net.
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
OILERS (34-22-8) vs. RED WINGS (25-26-10)
TV: 8:00 p.m. MST; Televised on Sportsnet & CBC
Tonight's game marks the second and final meeting between the Oilers and Red Wings this season and the lone game in Edmonton.
The last time these teams met was on November 6th in Detroit, when the Oilers defeated the Red Wings by a score of 2-1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Tyler Pitlick both scored for the Oilers in the win.
Oilers team scope:
After going 3-3 on their recent six-game road trip, the Oilers return home and kick off an eight-game homestand with a game against the Detroit Red Wings.
The Oilers are tied for second in the Pacific Division with Anaheim at 76 points. They are seven points behind San Jose for top spot and two points ahead of Calgary, though they hold a game in hand.
Defenceman Oscar Klefbom has eight points (3G, 5A) in his last eight games.
The native of Karlstad, Sweden leads the team in average ice time (22:08),
He leads the Oilers in ice time (22:07) and has registered over 26 minutes of ice time twice in his last five games and four times this season.
The Oilers blueliner is currently tied for fourth in goals (11) among NHL defencemen and has set career highs in goals and points (28) and is just one assist away from tying his career high in assists (18). Klefbom has two power play goals, nine power play points and two game-winning goals this season.
Connor McDavid registered an assist against St. Louis on Feb. 28, and now has 72 points (21G, 51A) in 64 games. He continues to lead the NHL in scoring, with a four-point lead on Patrick Kane (68), and a five-point lead on Sidney Crosby (PIT), Brent Burns (SJ) and Brad Marchand (BOS). McDavid has led the league in scoring at some point in all four months of the 2016-17 season. He has led or co-led the NHL in scoring since Nov. 22, 2016.
Forward Mark Letestu registered his sixth game-winning goal in the Oilers' 2-1 win over St. Louis on Feb. 28. Of Letestu's 13 goals this season, eight have come on the power play, two have been shorthanded and one of his game-winning goal was an overtime winning goal.
The Red Wings have picked up points in four of their last five games (3-1-1) but remain in second last spot in the Eastern Conference, 10 points behind the New York Islanders for the final playoff spot.
Henrik Zetterberg has nine goals and 41 points in 44 career games against the Oilers. He leads the Red Wings in scoring this season with 49 points (14 goals) in 61 games.
Second on the team in scoring is Anthony Mantha, who has 32 points in 47 games along with 13 goals. Mantha started the season in AHL Grand Rapids and had only three career NHL points and one goal in 10 games heading into this season. The rookie has never played the Oilers before in his career.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard has had an excellent season. Howard has a 1.96 goals-against average and .934 save percentage in 17 games but has been out since December 20 with a sprained MCL. He's about to join the AHL's Grand Rapids Griffins on a conditoning stint.
The Oilers could see rookie netminder Jared Coreau in goal tonight after Mrazek played Friday night in Calgary. Coreau has a 3.27 goals-against average and .893 save percentage but he has a winning record at 5-3-3 in 13 games plus two shutouts.