- I guess you could say there's some added incentive this time around. As the Oilers embark on the second night of a back-to-back set, the team opted to forego the morning skate, holding an 11:00am meeting before addressing the media at Rexall Place. Nikolai Khabibulin
is slated to get his 18th start of the season tonight, looking to improve on his 9-5-3 record, 1.88 goals-against average and .935 save percentage.
As the Oilers and Flames prepare to battle in the season's second installment of the Battle of Alberta, the home side's locker room intends to silence critics.
Prior to the season at a Calgary event, Flames GM Jay Feaster blasted the Oilers' rebuilding plans with a stern comment that, it appears, has rattled the orange and blue; not to a dangerous degree, however: "They're wandering the desert. And they're no closer to getting out than they were 10 years ago." - September, 2011
Words can hurt. Or motivate.
"I'm aware of it," said defenceman Ryan Whitney
, regarding Calgary's early-season struggle (recording a 10-12-2 record and sitting 13th in the West). "I'm also aware of when Feaster took a shot at us at the beginning of the year. It's a pretty easy game to get up for because of the way he talked about us, and how poorly we've been doing the last couple years.
"It seems like the tide's starting to turn a little bit." Ryan Jones
, who recorded a hat trick in last night's third-period outburst, agreed with his teammate's assessment but was mum in details.
"I did see them," he said of Feaster's lambasting. "Sports are emotional and sometimes people say things that they really don't mean to say, and they get taken out of context. I'm not sure if that's what happened with those comments, but it's hard for me to say.
"Dot dot dot."
Head Coach Tom Renney was aware of his competitor's comments, too, but backed Jones' statement of hockey mending an emotional backdrop.
"Jay's a good guy," he said. "He's a pro, he's doing his job. We haven't talked brought it up at all [in the locker room, as group]." THE BATTLE COMMENCES
Who's that guy named Ryan Jones
? He scored three goals last night, netting a hat trick as the Oilers hemmed the Blue Jackets by a commanding 6-3 score. The 27-year-old recorded 18 goals in 81 games last year, but is already at the midway mark to that total this season, a mere 26 games in.
All told, he's registered 14 points in 2011-12 and showing no signs of slowing down.
"It was big," he said of the Oilers' come-from-behind win last night. "Columbus is a hard-working team that really took advantage of some mistakes that we were making throughout the game; but we went out in the third, played hard and played the game we knew we could play, and got the win."
"I'm continuing to do what got me success last year," Jones added about his impressive three-goal outing last night and nine-goal season total. "I've said it all along: when you go to the net, you're going to score goals. It's a bit of a lost art in the NHL these days, but the guys that do it well continue to score."
On the backend, Whitney has now played in nine games this season, posting one assist and a -2 rating as he works his way back into the routine. The 28-year-old is eager to put the boots to the visitors tonight, citing last night's late-game surge as a reasonable point of optimism.
"Tonight will be a tougher test, playing back-to-back games against a real desperate team. It's a rivalry, but I think we can beat anyone."
"Our game last night for two periods was a really good practice," Renney added with a smirk. "We had the game in the third period, so we're ready." HEMMER TIME
Scoring one goal and adding an assist in last night's win, Ales Hemsky
had a strong third period that helped propel the Oilers to victory. Buoyed by a hit on Columbus' Fedor Tyutin, the 28-year-old was rolling; but there's still some untapped potential that needs to be reached.
"His shoulders are much stronger than they've been," Renney said. "What he does now have to do is make the decision to shoot. Once he starts to do that and has success, he'll feel much more comfortable with his ability to carry on.
"He really has to understand that he's as capable a shooter as we have."
"It's nice," Hemsky added, recalling the crowd's explosion when he crunched the Blue Jackets. "I can't do it all the time because of my shoulder, but if I can do it, I'll do it." -- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com
- Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick