TV: Sportsnet West (HD)
RADIO: 630 CHED & Oilers Radio Network
PUCK DROP: 6:08 p.m. MST
AT THE OILERS PRACTICE
Edmonton, AB - As the Edmonton Oilers search for answers during their current five-game slide, the club tried something a little different during what was a busy weekend.
With games on Friday and tonight plus the team's annual Skills Competition on Saturday, the Oilers elected to break from tradition and not hold a morning skate today.
Instead, the team practiced hard before the Skills Competition on Saturday morning following a 5-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks Friday.
"We'll take out of it what's required moving forward, obviously," said Oilers head coach Tom Renney of the team's lopsided loss to Anaheim. "I don't think you dwell on the things that were problematic for you, individually. I think you do that as a team and suggest we have to play with a little more passion and a little more energy and bring that tomorrow."
Renney was very unhappy with the team's performance against the Ducks, categorizing the effort among the team's worst efforts of the season -- a relatively small sample.
"We've had enough to bug me," said Renney. "We've had a couple agaisnt Phoenix, we had one against Carolina and this one last night. As much as we had 30 shots, that was kind of smoke and mirrors. And the last period on the Island bugged me.
"We've had enough that it's problematic if we let it continue. It doesn't matter what our roster looks like, you've got to play hard."
Captain Shawn Horcoff agreed that the team really needs to move past Friday's performance.
"We feel that in the majority of the games, the effort has been there and we're obviously a better team than that so we want to leave that behind and get ready for (Sunday)," Horcoff said.
Number 10 added that the team is very frustrated with its current stretch, which includes only four wins in their last 21 outings.
"We're just frustrated," he said. "To get down after they get a couple of lucky goals is frustrating. When frustration sets in, it's really tough to play the game. You get caught in between trying to do too much and maybe not enough. It's really a fine line. Our best bet, we talked about it today, is just leaving that behind. We had a good skate today and we'll be ready for tomorrow."
GAGNER PROVIDES A SPARK
One topic of discussion following practice Saturday was the fact that, after his fight Friday night against Francios Beauchemin, Sam Gagner now has twice as many fights as Ben Eager this season -- a fact no Oilers fan would have predicted during training camp.
"It takes a lot of courage to go," said Renney, adding he would have liked to see Gagner's fight give the team more spark Friday. "I'd like to have seen a better response from us. At that point in time I'm less concerned about winning the hockey game and more about respect. And making sure that teams know we're ready, willing and able to step up any time we need to.
"My guess is, people in our lineup have a pretty good understanding why they're here. I thought we had enough in our lineup last night that there could be more than one guy making a stand for his team."
Gagner has picked up 18 points (5 goals, 13 assists) in his last 23 games after starting the year with only two assists in his first 13 outings.
"I feel good. I just want to be consistent. That's the most important thing," said Gagner. "You want your teammates and coaching staff to know that they can count on you every night. Espeically for us, we can't take nights off or the hole gets even deeper. That's what I'm focusing on right now."
As for overall team performance, Gagner talked about how the team deserved a better fate on a lot of nights.
"We've played some games pretty good here and weren't able to get the result we wanted," he said, adding Friday was not one of those nights. "It was one of those games you want to move on from. it's never good to play like that."
NEWS AND NOTES
Eric Belanger did not skate on Saturday, a move Renney said was precautionary.
"He hurt his leg last night," said the head coach. "We just kept him off to give him some rehab. He'll skate (Sunday) morning and we'll see how he's doing."
Presumably, if he can't go it would mean that Hordichuk would draw in.
Last 10: Los Angeles 6-1-3; Edmonton 2-7-1.
Season Series: This is the second of four meetings. On Nov. 3, Edmonton handled Los Angeles, 3-0, at Staples Center behind a 19-save shutout from Nikolai Khabibulin.
Big Story: A lot has changed in two and a half months. When these teams last met, Edmonton extended a six-game winning streak, as Los Angeles was enduring a five-game losing streak as part of bigger early-season struggles. Now, the depleted Oilers have plummeted to 13th in the conference and are looking for any sort of momentum, while Los Angeles has used points in 12 of their last 13 to climb into playoff position.
Kings: Despite its remarkable run of points of late, Los Angeles has only won five of those 12 in regulation, suggesting an inability to put a full game together. But after the Kings sacrificed a late one-goal advantage for a 5-4 shootout loss to Dallas on Thursday, the Kings put it all together Saturday in a 4-1 win against Calgary at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mike Richards, Matt Greene and Anze Kopitar – who left the Dallas game after a physical check from Brenden Morrow – scored second-period goals to take a commanding lead. Jonathan Quick improved his fourth-best GAA to 1.95 with 29 saves on 30 shots.
"I thought we were pretty sluggish in the first period," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said after Saturday night's win. "But we played really well in the second period and our power play came up with a huge goal."
Oilers: Since its torrid start to the season has worn off, Edmonton has sunk like an freshly-thrown anchor, losing five in a row and 12 of 14. That streak went from bad to worse on Friday, when Anaheim routed Edmonton on its home ice, 5-0. Khabibulin and Devan Dubnyk split the loss, with the 1-2 punch allowing three and two goals, respectively. After the game, coach Tom Renney seemed like a man desperate for answers.
“I'm not sure what Anaheim did in the game was all that spectacular. We were just brutal," he said. "They don't feel real good about themselves at the moment and they shouldn't.
"The thing I don't like is that I don't see ice bags and guys sore from really gutting it out and doing everything they possibly can to win a hockey game."
Who's Hot: Kopitar has 3 goals and 2 assists over his last three games.
Injury Report: Simon Gagne (concussion) is out indefinitely, while Scott Parse will miss the remainder of the season for hip surgery. … The injury bug has made itself at home in the Edmonton locker room. Low-line center Eric Belanger (leg) is questionable for Sunday's game. Key attackers Jordan Eberle (right knee)and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (left shoulder) will both miss significant time, while high-scoring blueliner Tom Gilbert (right knee) is out a month. Ryan Whitney (ankle tendinitis), Alex Plante (facial laceration/concussion) and Cam Barker (left ankle surgery) are also on injured reserve.
Stat Pack: Despite his recent run of form, Khabibulin is 20-11-1 lifetime with a 2.40 GAA and .915 save percentage in 33 starts against Los Angeles. To further than strong mark, Khabibulin will need to shake off his six straight losses – five in regulation – in which he has surrendered 21 goals.
Puck Drop: Renney and forward Ryan Jones – one of the few attackers not hobbled by injury – attempted to diagnose the reasons behind Edmonton's recent skid.
The Battle of LA! Los Angeles vs. Lazy *****. LA won a hard checking game last night, so if we come at them early, we could probably wear them down and get the win. But that's not our game, so this will be a no hitter that leads to another loss with Renneys excuse machine saying...
"Any time you come off an event like the team Skills Competition, I find that it's hard for the guys to bounce back. With that in mind, we've essentially been on the ice competitively three days in a row now so I think the guys just hit a wall."
Still don't think we are near as bad as our record indicates. I hope at some point we get a reasonably healthy roster back together just so these guys can start feeling it again. We're hurting, in all sorts of ways, but I don't think our decent start was all smoke and mirrors.
Pancakes scores two goals. Doughty cross checks Hall in the face and Gagner has to fight Dustin Brown as a result. Two weak goals let in. Smid scores a goal. Stoll is 12-0 against Horcoff on the dot. Stoll breaks two sticks.