| OILERS vs AVALANCHE: |
AT THE MORNING SKATE
The Oilers took to the ice for their final gameday skate at Rexall Place Wednesday morning.
Despite helping his team earn two points with a 25-save performance Monday night vs. Minnesota, Devan Dubnyk was the last goalie to leave the ice, meaning Jeff Deslauriers is likely to start tonight vs. Colorado.
FOR THE FANS
Although a playoff berth is out of the picture, the Oilers have something important to play for tonight: a final home win for their fans.
"That's obviously what we're playing for," Andrew Cogliano said after the skate. "Colorado obviously clinched a spot last night, so we don't know how they're going to be prepared or coming out tonight, but for ourselves, we've got to try to win a game for the fans and look forward to next year."
Assistant Coach Wayne Fleming agrees.
"You've got to respect that fans who hung in there, and I think it goes back to that standing ovation we got a couple months ago after we snapped that losing streak," he said. "I've never seen anything like that and I think that really carried on."
Fleming is pleased with the way the team has played of late, especially at home.
"We're coming with energy, we're feeling good, and the puck's going in for us. That's a positive sign. And at at the same token, we're really strengthened up some of our defensive play. Hard work and focus, it sometimes goes a long way."
Defenceman Ryan Whitney credited a total team effort for the club's recent home success, eight wins in the past 11 games at Rexall Place.
"I think that the forwards, defencemen, and goalie all put together have kind of meshed pretty good and not let each other out to dry," he explained. "I think that all the wins we've had here, our goalies have been great. It's kind of been off and on which guy it is, but that makes a huge difference.
"We've scored some pretty timely goals, things like that, and the D have played well. So everything put together, it's made it a pretty successful year at home."
NIK STOPPING PUCKS AGAIN
Before the team took to the ice for morning skate, injured players Nikolai Khabibulin and Sam Gagner strapped on their skates for a test drive.
For Khabibulin, Wednesday's stint in net is the latest in a handful of on-ice appearances since undergoing spinal surgery in January. The goalie is pleased with his progress.
"It seems like every day it feels better," he said. "We started easy with just a track suit and Friday I put full gear on and took a few shots and this week three times already."
Khabibulin is confident that he'll be ready to play for the start of the 2010-11 season.
"I asked [the doctor] what it's going to be after surgery, and he said once you recover, you shouldn't feel anything," the goalie added. "So I'm pretty optimistic about it and the last couple days it was really exciting because I really felt very good.
"Ultimately it comes down to what the player feels and what I feel, and just like I said, the last couple days I wasn't really surprised but I think in the last three to four days, it really started to go to the next level as far as recovery."
Gagner has missed the past six games due to a hip injury, and although it is improving, he doesn't expect to play again this season.
"I skated today, just by myself, and it felt pretty good, but I talked to the doctors and there's really no point in pushing it right now, just continue to let it heal," Gagner explained. "I've gotten MRIs on it and there's nothing structurally wrong. There was a week there where it kind of stayed the same, but over the last four or five days, it's gotten a lot better. And I feel like in a week's time, I'll be 100% and I'll be ready to train again."
OILERS 5 - AVALANCHE 4 (OT)
Wednesday's final game of the regular season started bleakly for the Oilers after the Avalanche scored three goals in the first nine minutes. But the Oil countered to tie it up and traded third-period goals with their opponents to force extra time.
Nearly four minutes into sudden death, Ryan Whitney ended the suspense by beating Peter Budaj with a game-winning snapshot. With the primary helper, Dustin Penner capped a dominant game in which he posted one goal and two assists. Shawn Horcoff and Mike Comrie scored Edmonton's other two goals, while Jeff Deslauriers stopped 31 for the win.
Author: Jen Sharpe | edmontonoilers.com, with files from Bob Stauffer