June 10, 2006

Canada rallies around Oilers for Game Three

By Steve Keating

EDMONTON, Alberta (Reuters) - When the Edmonton Oilers
face-off against the Carolina Hurricanes in Game Three of the
Stanley Cup finals on Saturday they will not lack for
inspiration or support.

But what the Oilers really need if they are to keep from
slipping into a 3-0 hole in the best-of-seven series are a few
more big saves from backup netminder Jussi Markkanen and some
scoring of their own.

From the bronze statue of Wayne Gretzky to the championship
banners waving from the rafters of Rexall Place, there is no
escaping the Oilers' glorious past when "the Great One" and
Mark Messier were leading Edmonton to Stanley Cups putting the
NHL's most northern outpost and smallest market on the sporting

But it has been 16 years since Edmonton last celebrated a
championship and the banners and memories of those glory days
have started to fade.

A new generation of Oilers fans -- among the most raucous
and knowledgeable in the NHL -- eager to experience the
excitement of a Stanley Cup are certain to provide their team
with an emotional lift.

The support runs much deeper with a hockey-mad nation
rallying around the Oilers as they attempt to bring the Stanley
Cup back to Canada for the first time since 1993.


"It doesn't take long to see the tradition of winning that
they have," said the Hurricanes' Cory Stillman.

"We skated on the ice today, you could see all the banners
from the Cups and year after year after year.

"Obviously they have great fan support. On the way to the
rink today, I don't know if they were having a parade or

"It was fun, it is exciting. Hopefully we can spoil that

Any parade plans the Oilers might have had were put on hold
late in Game One when first choice netminder Dwayne Roloson was
involved in a violent collision sustaining a knee injury that
knocked him out for the rest of the season.

A game-winning goal by Carolina captain Rod Brind'Amour on
backup Ty Conklin with three seconds to play in Game One and
5-0 pasting in Game Two with Markkanen manning the net sent the
reeling Oilers home where they have used the extra day between
games to regroup and dig in for one last stands.

"The extra time is going to favor the team that lost a
couple, just to give us a little bit of time to regroup," said
Oilers coach Craig MacTavish. "It's a situation where we don't
feel like we're finished.

"I think that's important.

"If you don't have the belief, you don't have a chance.


"Carolina is a little bit like carbon monoxide poisoning;
you don't really sense it, you don't really sense the fear, but
it's lethal and we have a good healthy respect for them.

"We have got to do a few things a little differently,
certainly for us to be successful.

"We're going to make those changes."

One place where there won't be any changes is in net where,
barring any last minute surprises, Markkanen will get his
second consecutive start.

MacTavish, however, did raise eyebrows when he hinted on
Friday that there was a slim possibility that Roloson could
return to action if the series is extended.

"I guess there's always a chance," said MacTavish. "If he
was a forward, you would probably brace him up and get him out
there, but it's more difficult for a goaltender.

"You never say never, I guess, but the cavalry isn't
coming, doesn't look like it anyway."