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PRINCIPE: Home sweet home

by Gene Principe / Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers and the Western Conference playoff race are locked down in a death stare. The Oilers have an eye on getting one of the top 8 spots in the West. The post season positions are glancing back with a come and get me look. It's a back and forth connection that Edmonton is familiarizing itself with. It may be a new feeling this year but don't expect it to be a new one next year or the year after. Edmonton is on the cusp of putting together a team that should be a contender for the playoffs at the end of every regular season. It shouldn't be a one in done dash to the final days and weeks every April. To have that happen Edmonton will have to get in lockdown mode at Rexall Place.

The end of this regular season is a prime example of that. It's going to be difficult to make the playoffs. The Oilers readily admit that with only 9 games to go but 7 of those games starting Wednesday night against Phoenix will happen at Rexall Place. After that Calgary, Minnesota, Anaheim twice, Chicago and Vancouver will be the remaining home dates on the schedule. It is a wide cross section of teams. From clubs with guaranteed playoff spots, to those fighting for division titles or a final playoff position to one that has all been mathematically eliminated from the Stanley Cup chase. If variety is the spice of life then the Oilers have a lot of it happening at Wayne Gretzky Drive and 118th ave.

For the immediate plans it's where Edmonton can build momentum to stay in the playoff race and make a burst to the finish line with only two road games left vs. Colorado and Minnesota. Win them all at home or almost all of them and they will be pounding on the playoff door to get in. If they don't make it to the post season there is a clear understanding that making their home an unfriendly place to visit is paramount for future success. If they can walk in the East Security Ramp on game nights feeling invincible and playing like it part of the battle has already been won. The other part has to be done on the ice.

It's extremely difficult and for that matter a little unfair to look at what Edmonton did in the past at home and compare it to the present. However here's a look at the Oilers home record the years they were winning Stanley Cups. 1984-85 26-7-7, 1985-86 32-6-2, 1986-87 29-6-5, 1987-88 28-8-4 and 1989-90 23-11-6. Remember that thing about not being fair. It isn't expected that today's Oilers should put up those same kinds of number.  What is a little more fair and reasonable is to look at the final Cup winning season and 23-11-6, That is not unfathomable or unreachable. In fact you don't have to go all the way back to the Glory Years to find home success that is attainable. From the year 2000 to 2004 the Oilers had yearly home win totals of 23,23,20 and 22. In 2007-08, when they made a late charge for the playoffs, the Oilers' Rexall record was 23-17-1. Proving it can be done without jersey name bars that read Gretzky, Kurri, Coffey and Messier.

It's up to the jerseys now worn by Hall, Eberle, Nugent-Hopkins, Yakupov and others to make their own records of success. They can certainly do what others before them have done. The more they accomplish at home the less they have to concern themselves with road line matching, hostile crowds and home ice bravado by other teams. As the Oilers door opens and the team walks out of the dressing room and makes their way through the open area and onto the ice there is something that stands out. Written on the walls by the ice and benches is "Protect Our House". They are the final words seen by Edmonton before game time. That's the way the Oilers intend to play and then it won't be long before Rexall Place will once again be 'Home Sweet Home'.
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