November 20, 2011
Oilers hit the road on a high note
By Derek Van Diest, QMI Agency
EDMONTON - The Edmonton Oilers needed a win before venturing out on the road on another extended trip.
But it’s how they beat the Chicago Blackhawks Saturday, which was key for a club dropping in the standings faster than a firefighter down a pole.
“You get that win and rather than it being five losses in a row, you get the win and get some confidence heading out on the road,” said Oilers winger Jordan Eberle. “It’s huge, we played well throughout the whole game, our power play was good, our special teams were good, Khabby (Nikolai Khabibulin) was good, so we’ll take that confidence on the road.”
The 9-2 drubbing of the Blackhawks, was unexpected. The Oilers went into the contest on a four-game losing skid, having lost five of their previous six and desperately looking for answers.
In the Blackhawks they were facing a club that appeared to have found their form, climbing to the top of the Western Conference standings.
Yet, Saturday was a night where everything was going the Oilers’ way, starting with a slick opening goal from Ales Hemsky less than a minute into the game.
“The puck just went in for us,” Eberle said. “When you start off with Hemmer, one of our leaders, getting a great goal like that for us, then (Ryan) Jones finds a way to get one in and then they turn one over and I find a way to get it to (Ryan) Smyth backdoor and then we score on the power play.
“It just kept coming, it was just one of those nights. Growing up, you learn to always respect your opponent and you keep playing, and that’s what we did.”
It was a breakout in many ways as Eberle, Tom Gilbert, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Taylor Hall, Shawn Horcoff and Jeff Petry all collected at least three points.
Nugent-Hopkins had five assists, while Hall scored a hat-trick to snap a nine-game goalless slump.
Eberle had a goal and three assists, none better than the no-look pass he made to Smyth to set up the Oilers third goal.
“This win was important, winning breeds confidence and this game is so much about that,” said head coach Tom Renney. “I don’t care if you’re Ryan Smyth, Ales Hemsky or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins. For us, under the circumstances, this was such a big game.
“We knew what we were capable of, we believe in ourselves as a team and certainly how we have to play. Moving forward off a good outing, we have to be responsible enough to know why this happened and continue to work hard to play the same way.”
Now, off the heels of their biggest win this season, the Oilers are heading into four tough buildings.
They face the Dallas Stars Monday, the Nashville Predators Tuesday, Minnesota Wild Friday and Colorado Avalanche Saturday.
“The road hasn’t been friendly to us,” Eberle said. “We have two back-to-backs coming up on this trip against some tough teams. But we have to go in Monday with the expectation of winning.”
The Oilers have a 3-5-1 road record this season heading into Dallas. The bulk of those loses came on a recent six-game swing that saw them lose in Phoenix, Boston, Detroit and Chicago.
“It’s going to be a tough trip,” said Oilers captain Shawn Horcoff. “But I think, hopefully, we’ve turned the page here and it’s got us back to what made us successful early in the season.”