SUN Hockey Pool

Ready for Game 7 atmosphere?

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:36 AM ET

The last time they met, it was pretty much in an alley.

The Canucks and Oilers came out snarling, vowing they weren't going to take a single backward step all night, and by the 21-second mark of the first period there were already seven angry players in the penalty box.

It went from mad to worse in a highly intense, highly-entertaining, penalty-filled throwdown that ended the way it started - with a fist full of fights in the waning moments.

Old time hockey at its best.

"It was just two teams going back and forth at each other," remembers Kyle Brodziak, one of seven Oilers who dropped the mitts that night. "Both teams really wanted to win that game and nobody was backing down. That's how it escalated."

The Feb. 16 beauty didn't even mean all that much, so who knows how loud the fireworks will be this evening when they meet again at Rexall Place, with Edmonton's entire season resting on the outcome this time.

EXPECT A SIMILAR GAME

"I think it's going to be a similar game to the last time we played them," predicted Brodziak. "It's a crucial game, both teams are hungry for the win, and they're a pretty hard-nosed team. We definitely can't back down from them in any way. We have to come out with the same urgency and same grit that they do."

It shouldn't be difficult, given what's at stake.

If the Oilers win, they're three points back of Vancouver for eighth spot, with another head to head game remaining. Lose and the Canucks are likely out of reach for good, and Edmonton will have to set its sights on the loser of tonight's Colorado-Calgary game.

"I'm just really excited about the opportunity that the team's created for itself," said head coach Craig MacTavish.

"That's all we can ask for, to play well enough to give ourselves continuing opportunity. And this really reeks and smacks of that opportunity. We feel like we're in a pretty good state right now to handle it."

Rookie Sam Gagner, who got into his first, and so far only, NHL scrap that night, knows there's too much at stake to expect anything less than a Game 7 playoff atmosphere.

"I'm sure it's going to be a battle again - there's always bad blood between the two teams," he said. "Especially now, it's going to be heightened with the situations we're both in. We're both fighting for that final playoff spot; it should be a good game from start to finish."

Whether it's another battle royal or not, remains to be seen.

"They don't like us, we don't like them, obviously," said Andrew Cogliano. "It'll be like a playoff game. There will be a lot of hitting, a lot of intensity, but there won't be a lot of stupid penalties.

"We understand this is probably the biggest game of the season to date."

The way Edmonton's power play has been going, a special teams contest might serve them well. However it goes, they know they need to be ready because Vancouver, who won that last game 4-2, gave them all they could handle and then some last time.

"We're going into this game just looking to get a win, playing our game," said Matt Greene. "We put up eight goals last game, with no fights, so we can win that way, too. It's just a matter of how the game goes."

LOOK IN REARVIEW MIRROR

It's a rush, though, that with eight games left in the season the 10-2-in-their-last-12 Oilers are gaining league-wide attention for their unlikely surge.

"It's a good feeling to know that teams are kind of looking out for you," said Greene. "Getting teams looking over their shoulder knowing that the Oilers are coming is a good feeling, rather than last year at this time when it was 'All right, we've got the Oil tonight, boys.' "

"It's awesome," adds Brodziak, "to be in a situation we'll be in tonight, realistically within striking distance. It's good to know that the city is getting excited, and it's the same with the guys in the room."


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