Oilers look to get early jump

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:54 PM ET

Tom Renney was quick to weigh in on his team’s slow start to their last game.

While the Edmonton Oilers ended up winning 2-1 in overtime against the visiting St. Louis Blues on Saturday, the head coach said his side’s less-than-stellar effort coming into the game wasn’t entirely unexpected. Especially since coming off a successful three-game road trip.

But he won’t be as forgiving Tuesday at home against the Anaheim Ducks.

“It’s funny, we took the day off (Friday). In fairness to our guys, I think it was a bit of a calculated risk by me in terms of giving them that break, which they needed,” Renney said. “You hear it all the time where teams come back from a road trip and don’t perform at home.”

While it’s not exactly a rule of the road, it’s a trend that doesn’t only apply to the Oilers.

“It happens a lot. I think when you come home from a road trip, I don’t know what it is but it seems to go that way for a lot of teams,” said Shawn Horcoff. “(We need to) at least get to a good start. The first (period against St. Louis) was bad, but our third especially was really good. We took it to them there, we kind of came out and took the game over. I think that’s something that we’ve been getting accustomed to, is playing good in the third period.”

While finishing strong is important, Renney doesn’t want his team getting too used to poor starts.

“The bottom line is we got two points, but I think where you’ll see the benefit of that (rest) will be the coming week,” Renney said. “That day off will pay dividends.”

But whether it means a better start or not Tuesday against the Anaheim Ducks can only be answered after the opening faceoff.

This time, at least, they won’t be coming off a day off following a road trip through Eastern Canada like last week.

“For a lot of teams I think their worry is coming off the road and having kind of an emotional letdown sometimes,” said James Vandermeer. “You get back at home and say, ‘Oh, s---! We’re playing again.’ ”

Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin made his second consecutive start after the Oilers used three different goalies in their three previous victories.

“I think Khabi kept us in that game right off the bat and then we kind of got going after that,” Vandermeer said. “He did a great job of keeping us in there, giving us a chance to come back and playing our game.”

Khabibulin’s teammates hope to be able to give him some help, both offensively and defensively, sooner.

“Our first period, we did some good things too, but it’s tough after a day off,” Ryan Whitney said of Saturday’s win. “We had a good practice here (Monday). Hopefully guys are rested from that day we got and are ready to come in here and go to work (Tuesday).”

The idea is not to overthink things.

“We were a little slow-footed. You never want to use excuses but it’s tough off the road,” said Tom Gilbert. “You’ve just got to play a simple game right away. You’ve got to get pucks deep and get your feet underneath you.

“But we’ve had our rest. Now we’re at home, now we’re comfortable. We’ve got to continue to build on that.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/Gerry_EdmSun


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