Defense-minded Oilers riding wave of confidence

Updated: April 24, 2006, 7:02 PM ET
Associated Press

EDMONTON, Alberta -- The Edmonton Oilers are taking a defense-first approach to shutting down the powerful Detroit Red Wings.

But they're careful not to call it the trap.

"It's a smart style of hockey against a very explosive team," Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said Monday after the Oilers practiced and talked about shutting down the neutral zone during a brief skate. "We won't call it a trap."

The teams split the first two games in Detroit in the first-round Western Conference series. Detroit won the opener 3-2 in double overtime Friday night, and Edmonton tied it Sunday with a 4-2 victory. Game 3 is Tuesday night in Edmonton.

"You can call it whatever you want -- that's just how we're playing," Oilers center Shawn Horcoff said of Edmonton's new defensive system.

It was certainly effective Sunday when Edmonton mostly shut down a Detroit team that finished 29 points higher than the Oilers in the standings and boasted the NHL's best record and power play in the regular season.

"Detroit is very much a team you can't give space to in the neutral zone," Horcoff added.

The defensive system is familiar to Edmonton goalie Dwayne Roloson, a trade-deadline pickup from the trap-happy Minnesota Wild. He has looked relaxed despite facing 92 shots through the first two games.

"We're playing a lot like Minnesota," Roloson said.

Oilers center Michael Peca, who had 23 points and earned $4 million in the regular season, is a two-time Selke Trophy winner as the NHL's best defensive forward. His defensive talents are shining through in the series.

"Our success comes with skating and being aggressive," Peca said.

Edmonton will have a hard time containing the Red Wings.

"They are so dynamic on the rush," defenseman Steve Staios said. "You have to try and slow them down, and we like what we have done so far."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press