Oil­ers ea­ger to re­dis­cover their home-ice ad­van­tage

Re­cent surge at Rogers Place, in­clud­ing big win ver­sus Ve­gas, en­cour­ag­ing sign

Edmonton Journal - - SPORTS - ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI rty­chkowski@post­media.com Twit­ter: @Rob_Ty­chkowski

It’s been said that what hap­pens in Ve­gas stays in Ve­gas and it had also been said this year that what hap­pens in Ed­mon­ton stays in the bot­tom of the West.

But that could be chang­ing if the Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers’ re­cent surge is for real.

The Oil­ers have been play­ing their best hockey on the road this sea­son, which is all well and good if they’d been play­ing halfway de­cent at home.

But they weren’t.

And if they were to miss the play­offs, they wouldn’t have to look much far­ther than the .333 home-ice win­ning per­cent­age they car­ried into Tues­day’s game to fig­ure out why.

They fi­nally showed some life in their own build­ing when they needed it most, though, blow­ing the roof off Rogers Place with an 8-2 vic­tory over the Ve­gas Golden Knights that they hope can rekin­dle the fire that used to burn here last sea­son.

“We have to find ways to make it hard for teams to come in here,” said winger Patrick Ma­roon, who had a goal and an as­sist in the trounc­ing of Ve­gas. “We hadn’t been do­ing that lately. We got away from our iden­tity.

“Last year, teams hated to come in here. We had a good home record, we were strong, we were phys­i­cal, we were com­pet­i­tive and hard to play against in our home build­ing. We need to get back to that. We’ve been do­ing that on the road, now we need to make it hard for teams to come in here again.”

They took a big step in that di­rec­tion against Ve­gas, de­liv­er­ing much of the stuff they brought to the ta­ble when home-ice ad­van­tage ac­tu­ally meant some­thing here.

“We’re get­ting pucks deep, we’re us­ing our size,” said Ma­roon. “We’re mov­ing on the forecheck, our D are be­ing ac­tive and pinch­ing down low, we’re be­ing phys­i­cal and pro­tect­ing pucks. We’re get­ting to the net and find­ing loose scraps.

“Good things are hap­pen­ing right now and we have to build off that. We have a good team com­ing in here, the St. Louis Blues (Thurs­day); it’s a big test for us.”

It’s only one game. And it was only one game against an ex­pan­sion team dress­ing its fourth- and fifth-string goalies. So the Oil­ers don’t want to get too far ahead of them­selves, but they do want to keep this go­ing.

“We kind of put ev­ery­thing to­gether tonight and things went well for us, we can’t get away from that now,” said Ryan Nu­gen­tHop­kins, who had two goals in the win. “There have been times this sea­son, at home es­pe­cially, where we’ve had a good one and then we kind of come out with a crummy one. We have to stick with it and play the same way. It’s work­ing right now.”

Can it work for the rest of the sea­son? That’s the big­ger ques­tion.

“I sure hope so,” said head coach Todd McLel­lan. “That’s what the goal is. Eight-goal nights don’t hap­pen very of­ten … but tonight, a lot of guys got re­warded and it was a lit­tle more re­laxed on the bench. A lit­tle bit of fun in the game and we haven’t had that in a while.

“Can it be a step­ping stone for us? I hope so, but they’re go­ing to con­tin­u­ally be re­minded that we have to check for those chances.”

ED KAISER

Ed­mon­ton Oil­ers Matthew Ben­ning and Patrick Ma­roon cel­e­brate Ben­ning’s goal against Ve­gas Golden Knights net­min­der Maxime La­gace Tues­day dur­ing the Oil­ers’ 8-2 romp at Rogers Place. It was Ed­mon­ton’s fourth win in 10 games at its home rink.

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