- Following a win in the Land of 10,000 Lakes one week ago, the Oilers roll into tonight's contest vs. the Minnesota Wild with an extra step, looking to get back on track as the six-game homestand rolls along.
The Oilers opted to hold an optional morning skate, as the upcoming schedule sees the orange and blue play three games in the next four nights; all against Western Conference foes, in which the Oilers have posted an 8-8-2 record against this season.
The schedule also sees the Oilers and Wild clash for a fourth time, making 2011-12's Northwest Division start especially vital.
"I think it works both ways for both teams," said Jordan Eberle
, who's notched 24 points in 24 games this season. "You get to see them a couple times, so I think we can pick up on their tendencies, so we know what to expect, especially since we're playing them again in such a short period.
"Regarding tonight, we're going to be basing our performance on our own game plan; when we do that, we have success."
Eberle was an integral component to Friday's 5-2 triumph, posting a pair of assists and a +1 rating in 17:21. The 21-year-old insists that tonight's game plan will have to mirror last week's outing, which was highlighted by a patient pace to help counter the Wild's repressive style.
"That's actually the case with a lot of teams, but the Wild do it best, no question about it," he said about Minnesota's penchant to pounce on errors. "You've got to be patient with these guys, because they'll sit back and wait for you to make a mistake. They're a veteran team, and the same thing could be said for Nashville the other night, so we should know what to expect this time.
"If we get down by one, we can't start thinking outside the box."
Having tangled with the Wild three times already, however, Eberle also agreed that there were lessons to be learned; because, as the Oilers are well aware, a .500 (1-1-1) record won't cut it against a division rival.
"Absolutely," he said. "At the same time, we've got to make sure we're managing the puck well. We've given the puck away at inopportune times this season, which I think has killed us a couple times in our losses. We need to make sure we learn from those mistakes, especially against a team like this."
Linemate Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
, who's on an equally as impressive point-per-game tear, agreed with Eberle's assessment.
"They come at you hard," he explained. "You've always got to be prepared for them. It's never a bad thing to put the puck on net, too. We all know that, and that's what you're going to see tonight." LINEUP CHANGES Ryan O'Marra
was recalled from the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons yesterday. While the 24-year-old, 24-game NHL veteran has recorded one goal and six points in his big-league career, and has yet to arrive in Edmonton.
He will, however, be slotted into the lineup as Anton Lander
will come out with a hand issue.
"Very well," Head Coach Tom Renney said, regarding O'Marra's play down in OKC. "We talk to our minor league guys all the time, and you go in with a point of view as a coach from a long distance, and then you hear what they've got to say; they've said nothing but good things about O'Marra." Andy Sutton
, who missed six games with a pulled groin, will also come back into the lineup tonight.
The added toughness will be a welcomed addition, as the Oilers will be contending with Minnesota's Brad Staubitz once more. The 27-year-old engaged with Darcy Hordichuk
in last week's game, succumbing to eight minutes in penalties in the process. Theo Peckham
, another domino in the Oilers' tough plans, is ready to go if need be but isn't expecting much to go down.
"Usually when you go into these games expecting a riot, there turns out to be nothing," he laughed. "I'd imagine they'll be coming pretty hard, they're a physical team and we'll be ready for that.
"If push comes to shove and that other side of the game needs to be taken care of, we've got the guys in here to do it," Peckham added. Nikolai Khabibulin
(9-5-2, 1.88 goals-against average and .936 save percentage) makes his 17th start of the season tonight. -- Ryan Dittrick, edmontonoilers.com
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