As they take their first Western swing of the season, the Washington Capitals will have to make some changes.
But setting back watches three hours is all the change coach Terry Murray hopes to see. He wants the Caps, who have the second-most points in the NHL (14), to just keep doing what they've been doing.
"You can't get carried away and abandon the things that have led you to success," he said from his hotel in Edmonton, Alberta, where the Caps (7-1) will play the Oilers tonight at 9:35.
The Capitals are one game into a five-game road trip, their longest of the season. They played at New Jersey on Saturday night and will play in Vancouver tomorrow. On Sunday night, the Caps will play the Winnipeg Jets and then finish the trip Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
In Vancouver, the Caps will see the Western version of themselves. The Canucks, who barely made the playoffs last season with a 28-43-9 record, have the most points in the NHL (15) this season.
Murray said he hadn't seen any tape of the Canucks, but was going to later yesterday or today.
"They've got a good group of guys out there," he said. "They really believe in themselves. They are going to be fired up because they haven't had a lot of success in the past."
The Capitals have had some success in the past. But nothing like their start this season. Murray has a simple explanation.
"It's the team," he said. "That's the key word -- team. We're all giving each other good support in all situations. Everything has got to come together to allow a team to have the kind of success we've had this year. In the past, we've had guys trying to do too much or doing things they weren't capable of doing.
"I feel this year everyone understands that we have good players -- good vets, good leaders, good young players."
Another key has been the solid play of goalies Mike Liut (2.51 goals-against average, fifth in the NHL) and Jim Hrivnak (3.59) in place of Don Beaupre, who had been a holdout and is now playing for the Baltimore Skipjacks until his return to the Caps on Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
"Mike Liut is playing as good hockey as I've seen him play," Murray said of the 35-year-old veteran. "The reason he's been around as long as he has is because he's a good quality player. The same thing with Hrivnak. Jimmy's had the one tough game against Chicago [a 7-2 loss], but we didn't really give him much support."
The Caps are scoring, too. From 14th in the league last season, the Caps are second, behind only the Calgary Flames, this year. Their average is up from 3.2 to 4.5 goals per game.
Opponent: Edmonton Oilers
Site: Northlands Coliseum, Edmonton, Alberta, 9:35
Radio: WCAO (600 AM), WMAL (630 AM)
Outlook: The Capitals take a 3-0 road record this season and a 3-game winning streak overall against the Oilers tonight. G Mike Liut (4-0) returns tonight after missing 1 game for precautionary reasons. Liut was knocked unconscious briefly Friday night at the Capital Centre in a 6-5 victory over the Devils. RW Alan May (swollen left hand) also missed Saturday night's game but is expected to play tonight. Edmonton has won 2 straight games after getting off to a 1-5-1 start. Washington won the series with Edmonton, 3-0-0, last season. The Oilers report no injuries.