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OILERS (7-5-1) at BRUINS (5-5-1)
Last 10 -- Edmonton 6-4-0; Boston 5-4-1
Season series -- This is the only meeting this season. In 2008-09, Dennis Wideman's goal at 3:18 of overtime gave the Bruins a 1-0 victory over the Oilers in Edmonton. Wideman scored on the power play after Shawn Horcoff went off for hooking midway through the extra period. He beat goaltender Dwayne Roloson (35 saves) high to the glove side. Tim Thomas made 27 saves for his eighth career shutout. The Oilers haven't won in Boston since a 6-0 victory on Nov. 7, 1996.
Big story -- A season that began with huge expectations has not gotten off to a smooth start for the Bruins, who have been beset by injuries and inconsistency. But if you compare their records of October 2008 (5-3-3, 13 points, 29 goals for, 30 goals against) and October 2009 (5-5-1, 11 points, 31 goals for, 34 goals against), there is really no need to panic just yet -- we all know how 2008-09 ended for the Bruins (53-19-10, 116 points, 274 goals for, 196 goals against).
Edmonton -- This is the first game in a two-game road trip for the Oilers. A two-game homestand this week resulted in a 3-0 loss to Colorado and a 6-5 shootout victory over Detroit.
Prior to the Detroit game, the Oilers were suffering a major power outage with back-to-back shutout losses to Vancouver and Colorado. Coach Pat Quinn replaced Sam Gagner with struggling Shawn Horcoff (1-2-3) on the top line with Dustin Penner (1-3-4) and Ales Hemsky (2-1-3) and all three players came alive, totaling 10 points. "Pens and Hemmer are playing at such a high level, they're outstanding ... we haven't seen a level like Pens is bringing, where he's controlling the play. That creates so much open ice and gives me more time in the middle," Horcoff told the Edmonton Journal.
The Oilers have also been hit hard by the flu bug. Aside from defenseman Ladislav Smid contracting the H1N1 virus, Gilbert Brule, Denis Grebeshkov, Lubomir Visnovsky, Hemsky, Mike Comrie, Penner, and Tom Gilbert have all experienced flu-like symptoms or felt under the weather.
Boston -- This is the second game of a two-game homestand for the Bruins. It began with a 2-1 loss against New Jersey on Thursday. "I can't say I am disappointed in the way we played,'' coach Claude Julien told the Boston Globe, "but I am disappointed in the outcome.''
Key players Michael Ryder (3-3-6), Zdeno Chara (0-6-6) and Dennis Wideman (1-1-2) have yet to play at the high level they exhibited in 2008-09. Center Patrice Bergeron (4-4-8), on the other hand, has excelled with points in five of his last seven games. He leads the team in scoring. "He's been our best forward. By far,'' Julien told the Boston Globe. "He's been our best and most consistent forward.
"When you talk about ups and downs, he's been as good and consistent as you could ever ask. He's had a great year. He's playing extremely well. He's very reliable."
Who's hot -- For the Bruins, defenseman Derek Morris has a goal and 4 assists in his last three games, center David Krejci has a goal and an assist in his last two games, center Patrice Bergeron has 3 goals and 3 assists in his last seven games, and winger Marco Sturm has 3 assists in his last three games. For the Oilers, Penner has 4 goals and 6 assists in his last five games, Gagner has 2 goals and 5 assists in his last seven games, and Hemsky has 3 goals and 7 assists in his last five games.
Injury report -- For the Bruins, center Marc Savard (broken foot) and left wing Milan Lucic (broken finger) are on long-term injured reserve. For the Oilers, winger Fernando Pisani (back), defenseman Steve Staios (concussion), forward Ryan Stone (knee), defenseman Sheldon Souray (concussion) and center Marc Pouliot (pubic bone) are on injured reserve.
Stat pack -- Coach Claude Julien is looking for his 100th victory in his 176th game behind the Boston bench, which would make him the third-fastest to 100 wins by a Bruins coach (Tom Johnson, 100 in 138 games; Don Cherry, 100 in 175 games; Brian Sutter, 100 in 179 games). …Boston's Mark Recchi is the NHL's active leader in career assists (899), points (1,446) and games played (1,501). He ranks second among active players in goals (547) to Anaheim's Teemu Selanne. ... Boston is 22-6-3 all-time at home against the Oilers.
Puck drop -- The Bruins are beginning a string of three games in four days, which means that backup goalie Tuukka Rask will probably get some playing time, but don't expect it to come this afternoon. Starter Tim Thomas has been amazing in three career appearances against Edmonton with 2 shutouts and a 0.98 goals-against average (3 goals against).
-- Rocky Bonanno, NHL.com