SUN Hockey Pool

Oilers rise to the occasion with ease

Edmonton Oilers' Jordan Eberle (L), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ryan Jones (R) celebrate a goal against...

Edmonton Oilers' Jordan Eberle (L), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Ryan Jones (R) celebrate a goal against the Calgary Flames. (REUTERS/Dan Riedlhuber)

DEREK VAN DIEST, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:06 PM ET

For the Edmonton Oilers, it was easy getting up for the Calgary Flames.

The Flames are the Oilers biggest rival, they were in a hunt for a playoff spot and their general manager, Jay Feaster, talked some smack prior to the start of the regular season.

But now that the Flames have been vanquished and their playoff hopes damaged, the Oilers still have hockey left to play, starting with the Phoenix Coyotes Sunday at Rexall Place.

Getting up for the Flames is one thing, but getting excited about the Coyotes is something completely different.

"That's something that each player has to approach individually," said Oilers winger Ryan Jones. "You have to prepare the same way for every game and find a way to get yourself emotionally involved early on. You always say before you get out on the ice to either give a hit or take a hit to get involved. We have to continue to come out and play like we did (Friday) for the rest of the year and move forward as an organization."

Cory Sarich added fuel to the fire Friday night when he took a run at Taylor Hall early in the contest, then drilled Jones from behind and finally, stepped up on Ales Hemsky.

The Flames defenceman didn't endear himself to Oilers fans when he turned down multiple invitations to fight from Theo Peckham, instead deciding to jaw with Ryan Smyth.

It all made for an intense, entertaining encounter.

"I thought (Friday's) game, in the locker-room, we were approaching as somewhat of a playoff game and something that we were able to give back to the fans," said Jones. "We owe it to them and everyone who continues to show up. You could tell their hatred for Calgary, so it was nice to get a win for them.

"It was big, we talked after the poor effort (Monday against San Jose) about having more pride playing at home for the logo and the organization and I think the last two games are an example of what we should have been doing over a period of time."

The Oilers would like to expand on their modest two-game winning streak, while at the same time, put a damper on the Coyotes playoff aspirations.

The Coyotes, however, don't elicit the same emotional response the Flames do. Phoenix is considered a pretty non-descript team, lead by a pretty likeable fellow in Shane Doan.

Maybe if Raffi Torres ran someone through the end boards, those feelings might change, but considering the Coyotes game plan on the road is to methodically try and bore teams to death, that's unlikely to happen.

The last thing they want to do is give the Oilers any added incentive.

"It's interesting to see how teams approach things differently," Jones said. "You would think in the Western Conference, everyone would have kind of the same mould. But Phoenix is a team that will wait you out, they are so patient, they wait for you to make a mistake and they have guys that can capitalize.

"It's important for games like that, as Tom (Renney) says, to put yourself in danger instead of finding yourself in danger. We have to go out there and come out like a bat out of hell and let them know it's going to be a tough game. We have to minimize the mistakes, which won't allow them to counter very much. Individually we have to find our own way to get emotionally charged and be ready to go."

With 11 games left in the season, the Oilers don't want to just go through the motions and start counting down the days where they can put another miserable season to bed.

They still want games to have some meaning, even if the playoffs are well out of reach.

"I think for us in this locker-room, we're counting the points more than the games left," Jones said. "We see a possible 22 points left on the board and we want to leave as few uncollected as possible. We put ourselves in this position, we're not feeling sorry for ourselves, we're going to continue to battle and try and win some hockey games."

derek.vandiest@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SUNdvandiest


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