SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers looking for team-tough against Stars

Edmonton Oilers right wing Ales Hemsky (L) controls the puck as Dallas Stars center Tom Wandell...

Edmonton Oilers right wing Ales Hemsky (L) controls the puck as Dallas Stars center Tom Wandell gives chase during the second period of their NHL hockey game in Dallas, Texas January 11, 2011. (REUTERS/Mike Stone)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:53 PM ET

EDMONTON - After a meeting with the coaches and a meeting with the general manager, the Edmonton Oilers complete the hat-trick tonight when they meet the Dallas Stars.

The battle cry in the dressing room is “Battle, don’t cry.”

After back-to-back games against Anaheim and Ottawa, in which it looked like the Oilers were allergic to opposition sweaters, the organization is calling on itself to man up.

“We have to be physical, I think everyone in the room needs to bring that to their game,” said centre Andrew Cogliano. “That’s really been lacking other than a few guys picking up the slack. Everyone needs to bring that physical, hard game, hard on the forecheck.”

And hard on a Stars team that pounded Edmonton into submission the last time they met, laying on the muscle in a 3-1 win in Texas. It’s up to the Oilers to defend their territory with the same vigor.

“We have to match that and be even tougher than they are,” said Ladislav Smid. “I think we have a really physical team here, we have some really good guys who stand up for each other. We just have to do it tonight.”

Head coach Tom Renney isn’t looking for a gong show - lest Mario Lemieux threaten to quit the NHL again - just a team that’s willing to contest every square inch of ice.

“Just battle, push your way into a game, push your way to stay in the game,” said Renney. “As much as anything I’m looking for mental toughness, how you prepare yourself to play, your marriage to the game plan, your defence of yourself and your teammates and playing with the necessary battle level and intensity.”

Edmonton isn’t dressing tough guy Steve MacIntyre, so Renney says it’ll be up to the entire lineup to demonstrate that team toughness.

“I think we’re as tough as we need to be tonight, but that will be a decision that the guy who wear the jersey will have to make.”

The Stars have been decimated by injury, playing without Brad Richards, Jamie Benn, Krys Barch, Adam Burish, Nicklas Grossman and possibly Matt Niskanen and have three wins in their last 10 games.

So the Oilers, looking for their first home win in eight tries, might want to get while the getting’s good.

“They have some good hockey players who aren’t playing tonight, but we have to keep in mind that just because they’re not in the lineup doesn’t mean this team isn’t after two very, very crucial points for them,” said Renney. “So don’t hand it to them.”

Nikolai Khabibulin will attempt to end his 14-game losing streak in net.


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