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Expect a 'speedy' Oilers-Leafs thriller

Toronto Maple Leafs Dion Phaneuf battles for the puck with Edmonton Oilers Sam Ganger during the...

Toronto Maple Leafs Dion Phaneuf battles for the puck with Edmonton Oilers Sam Ganger during the first period of their NHL hockey game in Toronto Feb. 6, 2012. (REUTERS/Mark Blinch)

ROBER TYCHKOWSKI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:14 PM ET

Last time the Oilers and Maple Leafs met, it was a back-and-forth, thrill-a-minute shootout that gave fans every penny’s worth.

If the Edmonton Oilers can help it, it won’t happen again.

Having lost the Feb. 6 track meet 6-3, the club is vowing to batten down the hatches in the rematch tonight at Rexall Place.

“For us, it’s really important to understand the kind of game they want to play,” said associate coach Ralph Krueger.

“There’s so much speed coming at you that you need to be well-positioned defensively. We want to play a much better defensive game to take care of that, give them less space and time than we did at times in Toronto.

“We know we can play offence with them, there’s no question about that, what’s important is to take away their offence with a much more solid defensive game.”

Even the players admit that run and gun might not be the best way to go against a team with the kind of runners and gunners that Toronto has.

“You look at how the game ended up when we did that, it wasn’t the right end,” said Jordan Eberle, adding there’s a happy medium between boring defence and reckless offence. “We have to find a balance in between the two. If you look at their team, with all the skill and speed they have, if you give them the puck they’re going to get opportunities. If we play to their game, run and gun, we’re going to have some trouble.

“We have to try and sit back maybe, play some defence and worry about them making mistakes so we can go and counter.”

When the Oilers lost in Toronto they matched up Shawn Horcoff’s line against Toronto’s top trio of Joffrey Lupul, Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak, who combined for four goals. Tuesday night in Calgary, the Flames matched their scoring line against the Leafs top guns and won 5-1.

But matching power with power isn’t a strategy the Oilers seem sold on yet.

“Anything is possible, we haven’t made the final decision there,” said Krueger. “The Gagner line is such a threat offensively that it would take some offensive power out of their lineup. But we felt really good rolling the lines in Ottawa so there’s a good chance you’ll see some of that tonight.”

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ROBERT.TYCHKOWSKI@Sunmedia.ca

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