Oilers aim to clip Wings

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 7:08 PM ET

The Edmonton Oilers are up for the challenge.

Fridays contest against the visiting Detroit Red Wings should provide another measuring stick for the young club, who are learning as they go during this NHL season.

In Detroit, well get another strong opponent with a big veteran presence, said Oilers centre Andrew Cogliano. Well see a team that is kind of the complete opposite of us in a lot of respects. Itll be a very good test. For us we have to get off to a good start.

Since having lost to the Oilers in the 2006 playoffs, the Red Wings have functioned on a different level.

Detroit went on to win a Stanley Cup, play in another final and have kept themselves among the leagues elite. The Oilers, meanwhile, slid to rock bottom and have just starting the long ascent back up the league ladder.

Theyre a different team than we are in terms of age, Cogliano said. They are a veteran, savvy team, they have a lot of guys that have been in the league a long time and are well-respected.

We have a lot of young guys, we make mistakes, and though we have some good games, were more on the inconsistent side of things right now. For us we have to find a consistency where were starting the game right and finish off where we have been.

Heading into the contest, the Red Wings are in a familiar position, first in the Central Division standings, battling for top spot in the conference.

Their biggest threats, as always, are stars Pavel Datsyuk, Henrik Zetterberg and Nicklas Lidstrom, who each go into the contest with 12 points on the year.

They dont really dump the puck in that often, they like to control the puck, so you have to get on guys and take away their time and space, said Oilers defenceman Ryan Whitney. You have to know that theyre going to look to make plays all game, theyre not going to look at just giving the puck back to you. You really have to be on your toes and that goes the same with our forwards they have to come back and help out.

A model of consistency, the Red Wings have not had to go through a rebuilding process the likes the Oilers are currently experiencing. Its been over 20 years since Detroit has failed to make the playoffs.

It seems like its never going to happen, Whitney said. But well see when Lidstrom retires, that might hurt them a little bit.

Hes obviously at least probably top five of all-time defencemen. Hes not the best at anything, hes just so good at everything. Hes so good positionally thats probably one of his best things he gets a lot of shots through and he has a great stick, probably one of the best sticks Ive seen. Hes pretty impressive.

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca


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