The Edmonton Oilers will host the Detroit Red Wings in their first of two meetings this season. The last time these two teams faced off the Wings skated away with a 3-2 overtime decision on March 15. Pavel Datsyuk scored the game-winner and the Oilers know that he is just one of several Detroit skilled players they'll have to zero in on if they expect to come away with a win.
Head Coach Dallas Eakins says that he has selected one of his forward lines to take the bulk of minutes against the Red Wings' top line but he will be quick to switch things up if they fail to halt Detroit's offensive power or generate momentum of their own.
"I do have something in mind," said Eakins. "But as always, if you don't feel it's going the right way you come off it. We all know who their best players are. It's not like they're going to sneak up on you. We've got to get somebody look after the Datsyuks of the world. I've talked to one line already, all three of the players, and that's going to be their job. If they can get it done, it'll be a great feather in their cap. If they can't, I'm going immediately to 'Plan B'."
Oilers defenceman Justin Schultz will not play tonight after leaving practice early yesterday with 'rib discomfort' and then missing today's morning skate. The team recalled Philip Larsen to fill the void on the blue line and he will be suiting up in his Oilers debut.
The 23-year-old Danish defenceman has played in seven games for the Oilers' American Hockey League affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons. He has tallied seven points (1-6-7) and can be an asset on the power play.
He doesn't know if he will be seeing special teams minutes tonight, however he will be ready to help if called upon.
"I still don't know exactly what the plans are but of course, every time you get a chance to play it's a lot of fun," said Larsen. "Just play your game and help where you can help."
Larsen is excited to suit up in his Edmonton debut and knows the team is searching for a win.
"Of course it's important but you can't really think about what you're doing out there. You have to just go out and play a clean game within the system. Play your hockey game and help the way you can help. Hopefully we get a win tonight."
HAMILTON BRINGS THE HEAVY
Oilers forward Ryan Hamilton has not suited up for the team since October 7, against New Jersey when he suffered a knee injury.
He will play tonight against Detroit, replacing Anton Lander on a line with Boyd Gordon and Mark Arcobello. Eakins says he will bring a much needed 'heaviness' to the Oilers lineup.
"We've got a hole on the wing right now," said Eakins. "We're not the biggest team in the league. We need some heaviness. He plays that heavy game that we need. His job is very simple tonight. It's to go up and down his wing, to be strong on the boards, go to the net and cover his linemates off by being a good high forward a lot of the times. I've got a comfort level with Ryan because I've coached him for quite a while now. I'm hopeful he's up to speed quickly because he has been out a number of weeks."
Hamilton is excited to factor in with that role.
"That's the type of game that I want to play with those board battles and those puck battles in different areas of the ice, cycling the puck and just driving the net," said Hamilton. "I try to use my size. That's what I've got to do. That's a big part of my game and I would't want to change that and I'm glad I get the opportunity to try to do that and help the team out."
-- Chris Wescott, edmontonoilers.com
NHL.COM GAME PREVIEW
RED WINGS (8-4-2) at OILERS (3-9-2)
TV: CBC; FS-D
Last 10: Detroit 6-2-2; Edmonton 2-6-2
Season series: The Detroit Red Wings and Edmonton Oilers meet twice this season now that they've been separated due to realignment. Detroit won all three meetings last season, including a 3-2 overtime victory at Rexall Place on March 15, and is 6-0-5 in its past 11 visits to Edmonton.
Big story: The Red Wings' swing through Western Canada is off to a smashing start. Detroit beat the Calgary Flames 4-3 on Friday, two nights after a 2-1 victory against the Vancouver Canucks. The Oilers continue to struggle; they've lost four in a row and are 1-4-0 at home.
Red Wings: Detroit blew one two-goal lead against Calgary but put on a more Red Wings-like performance after taking a second one. Goals by Tomas Tatar and Justin Abdelkader provided enough cushion to survive Dennis Wideman's sixth-attacker goal with 9.8 seconds to play.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock was happy with some, but not all, of what he saw.
"We've got to learn to play and play consistently and do it each and every night," he said. "Some nights you're not going to win, you do good things but you give yourself a chance. I thought we had two good periods and one tough one."
Oilers: Edmonton has been off since Tuesday, when it took 43 shots but was shut out 4-0 at home by the Toronto Maple Leafs. The good news Friday is that starting goaltender Devan Dubnyk, whose play had improved before he was sidelined with an ankle injury, may be ready to return.
"I'll be ready to go," he told the team's website after practice Friday. "We haven't talked about it yet but I'll be ready to go if that's what they want to do."
Coach Dallas Eakins will talk with the medical and coaching staffs before making a decision, but said Friday that Dubnyk was playing better after a shaky start when he was injured.
"I thought he was gaining his confidence back," Eakins said. "He was square in the net, he was under control in the net when he didn't have much confidence [before]. He was all over the net. He's practiced hard here the last few days and I'll get a read on where he's at."
Who's hot:Pavel Datsyuk was the first star in Calgary after scoring one goal and setting up another. Jimmy Howard has won both games so far on the trip. … Oilers goalie Richard Bachman has a 2.40 goals-against average playing the past two games.