Following a disappointing homestand that saw the team gain no points in four games, Oilers head coach Pat Quinn went back to the lines the team used during its successful five-game road trip but with a slight twist.
The very successful fourth line unit of Ryan Stone, Robert Nilsson and Zack Stortini was reunited, as was the combo of J-F Jacques, Patrick O'Sullivan and Shawn Horcoff.
The twist was that Ryan Potulny was on the top line, centering Gilbert Brule and Dustin Penner.
"We blew the lines up for yesterday's game and even though four of the goals were in penalty kill against it's hard to evaluate your players and line's play in a game like that with seven goals against," noted Quinn.
"The initial thought was to go right back to how we played the five games that we did pretty well again. I really only adjusted one guy and that was Potulny instead of Gagner (on the top line)," he said.
"The reason is that Potulny's been very good. He's been very conscientious defensively and a consistent scorer on what you might call a third line - not a scoring line so to speak."
Sam Gagner continued to play with Andrew Cogliano. The two had success last game, teaming up for a goal. Ethan Moreau played the left wing side.
"Gagner and Cogs at least like playing together. One of the few postiive things we saw (last night)."
LOOKING FOR A FRESH START
Following four straight losses at home, the Oilers are hoping that a return to the road will result in a change of fortunes for the club.
"It's not as if we didn't start well in every one of those games. Maybe the Nashville game wasn't as good as we wanted but we started well again there," said head coach Pat Quinn following practice. "We found a way to fold (in each game). There's no quitters in that room but sometimes you get down yourself, you change plans, you get very individual in your play and it hurts you instead of helping you. We've got to convince our guys to stick with the program and we've got a chance to recover."
On the ice, the team had a frank discussion with assistant coach Wayne Fleming talking about various aspects of the powerplay. Powerplay quarterback Sheldon Souray was leading the charge in the discussion. After practice, he was frank about the direction of the team and what's needed to get things back on track.
"Collectively we need to play with a little more of that edge, a little more of that hunger. We did it four games ago when we were on the road," Souray remarked. "Not going in and punchng guys in the head or running guys over but 'I'm not going to get knocked off the puck tonight.' A little bit more competitive edge. We need that. We're going to play against a team that has that tomorrow and we're going to need to be better than them."
THE TREND STOPS HERE
One thing the Oilers have done well this season is break lengthy droughts against teams they haven't had much success against on the road. That's included wins in cities like Nashville, Detroit and Dallas.
"I wasn't aware of that statistic but we'll mention it tomorrow now that I know about that," chuckled Quinn when informed of the stat by Bob Stauffer.
In order to win tomorrow, the Oilers will need to break another drought as they haven't won a game in Minnesota in 10 outings (0-8-2). Tonight marks Quinn's first game in Minnesota as Oilers bench boss.
"The big thing I'll be asking is stay with it. Fight hard to execute as well as we can. We'll make mistakes but need to make sure they don't break us this time." O'SULLIVAN, HORCOFF LOOKING FOR SUCCESS
Oilers forward Patrick O'Sullivan found himself back on a line with Jacques and Horcoff as head coach Pat Quinn tried to find the right mix for both O'Sullivan and Horcoff.
"I think we know how each other play and we all have a little bit of a different role on the line. We play against the other team's top line mostly and try to create some offence ourselves as well," said O'Sullivan. "We've probably played together the most as far as linemates go."
Quinn has tried many combinations to attempt to get Horcoff going, including reuniting him with Penner for several games on the recent homestand. He wasn't happy with how the Horcoff, O'Sullivan, Jacques line's play slipped off.
"That combination was getting scored on every time you turned around. So that was the negative side - even though their play wasn't bad they were still coughing it up and getting caught for goals," said Quinn.
"We're hoping that doesn't happen and we get the good side of what they can be. We have to get O'Sullivan scoring. He's a guy you'd expect that from. And Horc is the same way. He has a history of being not a great scorer but a good one. A consistent one." Author: Marc Ciampa | edmontonoilers.com