Saturday, March 19, 2011

Battle of the Basement. Oilers vs Avs

The Colorado Avalanche will visit the Edmonton Oilers to challenge for the “Battle of the Basement” tonight at Rexall Place.  With the end of the season looming for both the clubs, the teams will play for the 5th time this season.

It would be easy and somewhat unfair to declare that the Oilers have finally given up all hope with only 11 games remaining in the season.   In fact in the eyes of every player in the Oilers dressing room, the club is eager to put up a couple of W’s and (understandably) avoid a 30th overall finish.

“We're not a bunch of quitters," said defenceman Ladislav Smid. "We're not going to give up. The pick doesn't matter to us. We want to win. We don't want to finish 30th again."
And who can blame the young veteran?  While the Oilers could potentially win the 1st round pick, unfortunately, this year there is no Taylor vs Tyler.  In fact, the pro scouts are having a difficult time deciding who is going to go #1.  Moreover, why should the Oilers look to receive an 18 year-old player who will probably not make the jump to the pro-ranks in time for next season?
 Nor, why would the Oilers rush a player during this slow and arduous rebuild?
Some would argue that Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner were shuttled into the NHL a little too soon when perhaps the pair could’ve benefitted some seasoning in Junior and/or in the AHL.  Though at the time, the Oilers Brass had no other choice but to rush the “kids” in order to bring some hype into Oil Country.
Now that Hall, Omark Paajarvi, Eberle et al have one season under their belts, it is about raising the bar and being successful with what they have at their disposal.
“As far as I'm concerned we have enough young players here, enough good players here, to go forward," said 21 year-old Sam Gagner. "We went through our pains last year when we got our first pick. You want your teammates to be successful."
 For Gagner and the rest of the group, the word around the locker room right now is: pride.  
"We're not going to give up on the season," said Ryan Jones. "We have too much pride to think about finishing 30th two years in a row. That's just something that we don't want to do. “You look around and everybody says you're the last-place team in the entire league. The number doesn't hurt as much as the words, last place.”
With Colorado in the building, the Oilers can now try to snap a 5 game losing skid on HINC.  Colorado have now lost 10 games in a row for the second time this season and are 5 points above the Oilers with 60.  For the Oilers, they will be expecting a desperate team to come out hard at the gate.  Head coach, Tom Renney is also be expecting a hungry club, though he expects that his team will answer the bell.
"I'm not sure what the circumstances will be tonight that provides us the necessary momentum to go win a hockey game, but it has to start with us. It can't be anything other than that, we have to just pay attention to playing hard, getting a good start, sustaining it, and really trying to stay with a game plan that we think will give us a chance to win."
 According to Renney, Colin Fraser will sit out for tonight’s game, after taking a shot in the foot this morning. 
"We'll see how that goes. I'm going to tell you it's day-to-day and that's just me making a statement without really having any conversation with T.D.  (Forss, head athletic therapist)."
Jones - Cogliano - Eberle
Paajarvi - Reddox - Omark
Giroux - O'Marra - Hartikainen
MacIntyre - VandeVelde - Strudwick
Due to the lack of forwards, Tom Renney has decided to place Jason Strudwick on the right wing for Fraser.
“He understands the game well enough to know that whatever position is being played, he knows what to do," Renney said. "Obviously I have to make sure that we deploy our people in a way that gives us a chance to win, so we'll see how he starts off and take it from there."
The Oilers did receive some good news today when it was announced that Theo Peckham will draw in after sitting out 8 games with a concussion.
 “I definitely feel 100 percent," Peckham said. "Any time you have to sit on the couch and watch your team play and the guys kind of go into battle without you, it's tough. So I mean, definitely for me tonight, it's definitely huge for me to get back in.
Oilers vs Avs Tonight at 7 on CBC.

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