RANGERS (9-6-1) at OILERS (7-7-1)
Last 10 -- New York 4-5-1; Edmonton 4-6-0
Season series -- This is the only meeting between the clubs this season. Edmonton won 3-2 at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 10, 2008, in the only meeting last season. Ales Hemsky won it for Edmonton by scoring the only goal in the shootout. This is only the second visit by the Rangers to Rexall Place since January 2002; they are 13-12-3-1 all-time in Edmonton.
Big story -- The Oilers' Steve Staios is expected to return from a concussion that has sidelined him since the fourth game of the season. The sight of the veteran defenseman back on the ice is welcomed for an Edmonton team that had a total of nine regular players miss games due to either illness or injury this season.
Rangers -- New York began the season as a team on fire but has cooled off considerably. After winning seven in a row following their opening-night loss to Pittsburgh; the Rangers are 2-5-1 in their last eight games, including a 4-1 loss at Vancouver on Tuesday. The Blueshirts have scored just five goals in their last four games. This is the second of a three-game Western Canada road trip for the Rangers; they visit Calgary on Saturday.
If the Rangers hope to turn it around offensively, they could use the help of struggling players like left wing Christopher Higgins, who finally scored his first goal of the season in the loss to Vancouver.
"I'd rather score when we win," Higgins said after the game. "It seems like it's not that significant. It's the only goal we score, and we lose. Then we give up three, and most of them were preventable."
Oilers -- Like the Rangers, the Oilers came out the gate strong, averaging four goals in their first nine games and going 6-2-1 over that span. However, illnesses and injuries have taken their toll since then. Edmonton is just 1-5-0 record in its last six games, including getting shut out three times.
The inconsistent play has coach Pat Quinn searching for answers.
"I wish they had a way to put a finger on exactly what's missing and awry right now," said Quinn after Monday's 3-1 road loss to the Islanders. "We sure shoot ourselves in the foot and we are a team that beats themselves right now."
Who's hot -- Rangers' right wing Marian Gaborik had a four-game goal streak before being held scoreless on Tuesday. Defenseman Denis Grebeshkov has led all Oilers skaters with nearly 24 minutes of average time on the ice over their last five games.
Injury report -- Rangers forwards Enver Lisin (foot) and Donald Brashear (undisclosed injury) both missed Tuesday's game and are uncertain for Thursday. For the Oilers, Sheldon Souray (concussion), Marc Pouliot (sports hernia) and Ryan Stone (knee) remain out with their long-term injuries, while center Shawn Horcoff will sit with a shoulder injury and is listed as day to day. Ladislav Smid did not skate in Wednesday's practice due to a sore throat. The young defenseman was diagnosed with H1N1 virus last week, but hasn't missed any game action. Center Mike Comrie is expected back after a bout with the flu.
Stat pack -- Although New York is in the upper half of the Eastern Conference playoff standings, their average of 29.9 shots against this season is 17th in the NHL.
Puck drop -- Neither team has been playing well, and both are struggling offensively. Expect both teams to try to push the tempo -- a tactic that worked for each during their early-season hot streaks and that neither has been able to do in the past week or two.
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