- With a 1-2-1 record on the team's current homestand, the Oilers know the next two games are vital to salvage points and respectability as one of the league's top squads at home.
Assigned with that task between the pipes will be 25-year-old sophomore Devan Dubnyk
, who will be making his 10th start of the season tonight, looking to improve on his 2.90 goals-against average and .905 save percentage.
"We've been great on home ice this year, but this last little stretch hasn't been our best," said the netminder who's notched a 4-5-0 record in 10 games this year. "We've shown some signs as we usually do, but lucky for us this is a longer homestand and we really need to establish ourselves on home ice. We need to salvage this one and then be ready for when we come back."
Dubnyk began the season as the Oilers' starting goaltender, but then passed the reigns to Nikolai Khabibulin
as the 38-year-old veteran stepped up with a rebound start to the 2011-12 campaign.
"It's good," Dubnyk said of his mindset heading into tonight. "For the most part all year I've been pretty good. When I've gotten the opportunity to go, I've been ready; and when you get a chance to play and win a game, you try to build on that as much as you can.
"I've been feeling good and I'm excited to get the opportunity tonight," he added. "With the schedule we have, I was looking to get in one game at least this week, and now it looks like I might get two with the back-to-backs coming up." HURRICANE WARNING
Carolina rolled through Calgary last night, losing 7-6 in a barnburner and will be eager to back in the win column tonight. They've established an 8-17-4 record, but still possess several dangerous weapons to pose a threat to most anyone.
But they're still without a win under newly hired head coach Kirk Muller.
"We see them once a year, and they gave it to us last year in Carolina (losing 7-1 on Nov. 9, 2010)," Dubnyk said. "That was a long time ago, but we need to prepared. I know they lost last night, but they scored six goals. I played with Skinner at the Worlds and he's a hell of a player, so he's a guy we've got to be aware of and key on out there.
"They've got some weapons, but I think for the most part, we need to stick to our game; be ready for the opponent, but the best way to do that is to play our game and use our speed."
"I watched them play on TV last night in Calgary and they were working really hard," added Anton Lander
, who will be back in the lineup tonight after missing the past two games with a hand injury. "They were down 6-3 and worked back into the game. We have to be ready for a hardworking team, with those skilled players they have up front.
"We have to get pucks to the net more. It all starts with solid play in our own end and when we do that, we can turn up ice and start the transition game. When you play good D, the other part of the game comes naturally. I think we've worked on these things in practice lately and we'll be good to go tonight."
Although the Hurricanes last played at Rexall Place on Feb. 1, 2010 when the Oilers came out with a 4-2 win, there's a much more vivid memory still present within the orange and blue's locker room.
The Oilers conquered three clubs en route to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006, losing in Game 7 to the Hurricanes by a 3-1 count in a devastating conclusion. Ryan Smyth
, who posted seven goals and 16 points in 24 post-season contests that spring, remembers the series well.
"I was talking with Horc (Shawn Horcoff
) today about it on the ice," No. 94 said. "It's still in the back of our minds. It was our chance to win a Cup, but now it's all about another opportunity and nothing lies in front of us but these guys.
"It's still a bitter taste, you know," he added, with a sad smirk. "It's every hockey player's dream to win a Stanley Cup, but only one team wins it.
"We weren't the better team. They won. We move on."
Head Coach Tom Renney was invested in the series, too, as an observer.
"Just watching Carolina, I thought that they had a very good transition game and their D men were very, very active in the attack," he said. "They wanted to counter-attack and do it with speed and numbers. They had very good goaltending and so did Edmonton.
"I thought [the Oilers] really could have won the series." LINEUP NOTES
As stated above, Anton Lander
will be slotted back into the lineup tonight alongside Lennart Petrell
and Ben Eager
, who will also be making his return after sitting out three games with a lingering back problem.
For a complete look at the Oilers' lineup, as well as combinations/pairings, CLICK HERE
. -- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com
- Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick