- Following a four-game road trip in which the Oilers split the set with a .500, 2-2-0 record, the boys are back in town and read to make hay in an extended six-game homestand beginning tonight vs. the Nashville Predators.
On the heels of Saturday's 5-2 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, the Oilers are preparing for tonight's clash having lost more than two points in the team's last outing over the weekend. Taylor Hall
took a crunching opening-period hit from Colorado's Colin Wilson, prompting the 20-year-old to leave the game favouring his shoulder; the winger returned moments later, but received a cross-check on his next time out, sending him to the room once more with a low-hanging arm.
Hall didn't return and will be unavailable to go tonight, as he'll undergo an MRI later today to determine a timeline.
The Oilers' whispered response was a concern, but tough-guy Darcy Hordichuk
promises a more robust and preventative measure tonight.
"There's no doubt that (Colin) Wilson might drop the gloves every once in a while," he recalled. "You try to get out there and engage him, but you've always got to look at the score of the game. You realize he might not always be interested, but at the same time you've got to send a message."
No. 16 was instrumental in the Oilers' 5-1 beating of the Minnesota Wild one night earlier, drawing eight minutes in penalties and getting under the skin of Brad Staubitz; which helped, too, considering the Oilers completed the game having gone 1-for-4 on the power-play.
So much of the Oilers' response is dependent on the opponent, Hordichuk explains.
"You want to do something, but at the same time, I caught him once near the end and let him know we were going to go, but I never saw him again. It's a long season and you've got to be watching the scoreboard closely, but you also want to let guys know that they can't do that.
"There needs to be a response; you want to do more and hold guys accountable, and that's I'm supposed to do out there."
Tonight the Oilers will be up against a similar opponent. Jordin Tootoo, who, in 22 games, has plastered his enemies with 46 hits this season, will be running and gunning to punish the Oilers' skilled talent. Hordichuk, along with his eager teammates, will be determined to keep him in check.
"There's no doubt that you're going to try and calm guys down like that and let them know early, but they've got a guy over there that's going to try and calm me down, too (Brian McGratton)," he said. "It's like any other game. I've got to go out there and bang some bodies, and when you do that, their guys come your way."
"You make sure you've got muscle in your lineup," Head Coach Tom Renney added, regarding the team's response to an attack. "You play the game and the spontaneity of playing when the opportunity presents itself, you play physical. Otherwise, like everyone else, you take your lumps and you keep playing."
Renney went on to comment on the Predators' unique and unrelenting style, which should pose a great challenge once again for the up-and-coming orange and blue squad. COUNTER-ATTACK
Nashville holds an all-time 27-18-5 record vs. Edmonton, but the Oilers have won this season's battles by 3-1 (Oct. 17) and 6-2 (Nov. 22) scores, so the men donning the oil drop have some extra incentive to keep the ball rolling.
"I think [Nashville has] taught us a lot," Renney said. "We're still on the learning curve here as a team. But I think (Head Coach) Barry (Trotz) has this team competitive year-in and year-out. Here's a classic example of a team having a dip right now (1-3-1 in their last five), but you know darn well that when they come back to playing together, they'll be a good team again.
"What they've helped us learn is that you've got to stay with it," the bench boss added. "We're trying to develop a reputation here, an image, a look, a style of play that's 'Oiler.' We have to continue to try and sign our work the same way, and certainly we've learned that from Nashville.
"Are we a good matchup for them? I'd like to think we're a good matchup for any team that we're playing now that we're a little closer to what we want to be." Ryan Jones
, who spent three seasons with the Predators organization between 2008 and 2010, scoring 14 goals and 28 points in 87 NHL games with Nashville, agreed with his coach's assessment and is looking forward to tonight's challenge.
"They're a very structured team and they don't get too far outside of their system, so we've got to do the exact same," he said. "We've got to match their intensity and let our skill take over. If we play our game, we'll give ourselves a chance to win.
"We've played great games against [Nashville]. I don't know if they didn't play their best, but it doesn't really matter when we're playing that way. When we do that, we give ourselves an opportunity to beat any team in the league." Nikolai Khabibulin
(9-4-2 record, .936 save percentage and 1.87 goals-against average) will make his 16th start of the season tonight.
For a complete look at the Oilers' lineup, view the updated line combinations
. -- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com
- Follow me on Twitter | @ryandittrick