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Press Round-Up: MAR.20.08

by Staff Writer / Vancouver Canucks
Oilers look to end Canucks domination previews the Canucks game against the Edmonton Oilers:

A losing streak last month nearly dashed the Edmonton Oilers' hopes of returning to the playoffs. A recent surge, though, has them back in the thick of the race.

Looking to further their postseason push, the Oilers will try for their fourth straight win when they host the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday.

Edmonton (37-32-5) suffered a three-game slide from Feb. 16-22 that dropped the team to 14th place in the Western Conference. Since then, the Oilers have gone 10-2-0 to move to 10th place - one point behind Nashville and five back of Vancouver, Calgary and Colorado - three teams tied for sixth in the West.

The Oilers opened a four-game homestand with an 8-4 win over Phoenix on Tuesday. Curtis Glencross scored two third-period goals and Ales Hemsky contributed three assists for Edmonton, which has won three straight and six of the last seven.

"We were in a pretty bad situation not too long ago and made a commitment to each other and everybody has followed through with it," defenseman Steve Staios said. "We weren't feeling that good about how we were playing but no one went into panic mode. We had confidence that if we got back to our game that we could make a run."

Rookie Sam Gagner added a goal and two assists, while Dwayne Roloson turned aside 26 shots in his third straight start for Edmonton, which scored eight goals for the first time since an 8-5 win over Columbus on Jan. 13, 2003.

For the Oilers to reach the playoffs for the eighth time in 11 seasons after missing the 2006-07 postseason, they must capitalize on their eight remaining games - all against conference foes.

Two of those matchups are against the Canucks (37-26-10), who have won two straight and five of seven as they seek to reach their sixth postseason in seven years.

Henrik Sedin scored two goals, and twin brother Daniel Sedin assisted on both to give the Canucks a 3-1 home victory over Phoenix on Monday.

"If you don't score and you're supposed to score, it's always nice to get some goals," said Henrik Sedin, who had been kept off the scoresheet in his previous four games. "We got some bounces and went to the net a little bit more (Monday night) and the whole team played better so it makes it easier."

Roberto Luongo made 25 saves to improve to 5-2-0 with a 2.35 goals-against average in his last seven starts. He is 3-0-2 with a shutout and a 1.74 GAA in five starts against the Oilers in 2007-08.

The Canucks are 3-0-3 in the season series, but have lost two of three meetings at Rexall Place, where the Oilers have won nine of their last 10 games overall.

Roloson is 11-11-2 with five ties, four shutouts and a 2.28 GAA in 33 lifetime games against Vancouver.

Vancouver will be without rookie left wing Mason Raymond for four weeks after he suffered a second-degree MCL sprain on a knee-on-knee hit in Monday's win.
Getting to know the Northwest rivals: Division title is still up for grabs and even Edmonton isn't out of it yet

Jason Botchford takes a look at the run for the Northwest title:

Minnesota Wild
Points: 86
Home games left: 4 (Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary, Colorado)
Road games left: 4 (Edmonton, Vancouver, Calgary, Colorado)

How they can win the division: Marian Gaborik and Brian Rolston carry the offensive load, but it is the Wild's secondary scoring that could be the biggest factor down the stretch. The Wild have nine players with at least 10 goals. Division teams will concentrate on shutting down the big two (three, if you include Pavol Demitra), creating some opportunities for other players including Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Brent Burns.

Why they won't win the division: The jury is still out on goalie Niklas Backstrom. After an up-and-down season, the inexperienced netminder will get tested often in these crucial games. If he doesn't respond well to the pressure it could spell trouble.

Calgary Flames
Points: 84
Home games left: 4 (Vancouver, Edmonton, Minnesota, Colorado)
Road games left: 5 (Edmonton, Minnesota, Colorado and Vancouver twice)

How they can win the division: Jarome Iginla and Miika Kiprusoff have to both be tremendous down the stretch. Iginla has scored 10 of his 45 goals against divisional foes this year. He will have to improve that for the Flames to have a shot. Kiprusoff, whose numbers are down playing behind an inconsistent defence, has to do better than his 2.68 GAA.

Why they won't win the division: Their defence may not be good enough. It's been inconsistent all season. Among Northwest teams, only Edmonton has given up more goals.

Colorado Avalanche
Points: 84
Home games left: 4 (Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Minnesota)
Road games left: 4 (Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Minnesota)

How they can win the division: The Avalanche can still take the division if Jose Theodore can continue the run which has seen him go 7-3 with a 1.96 GAA in his past 10. Plus, Ryan Smyth will be a factor and is playing again despite initial reports he suffered a season-ending injury..

Why they won't win the division: It won't happen if Smyth can''t find his game. He has been oddly inconsistent even when in the lineup. He recently went nine games without a point, then produced five in three games. Peter Forsberg's comeback is looking like a bust. He's hurt more than he's playing; he's a distraction. Marek Svatos's injury may be too much for the Avs to overcome.

Vancouver Canucks
Points: 84
Home games left: 5 (Colorado, Edmonton, Minnesota, and Calgary twice)
Road games left: 4 (Colorado, Edmonton, Minnesota, Calgary)

How they can win the division: Forget the offence, the Canucks are only going to win the division by keeping pucks out of the net. This team will live and die with its goals against, especially in big divisional games. Roberto Luongo has to be great. He has to have a GAA that is under 2.30.

Why they won't win the division: Too many injuries to the back end. Vancouver will miss Mattias Ohlund, Lukas Krajicek and Aaron Miller, who will all likely be out the rest of the regular season. Kevin Bieksa is pinching too much and there have been too many mistakes in the down-low coverage.

Edmonton Oilers
Points: 79
Home games left: 4 (Calgary, Vancouver, Minnesota, Colorado)
Road games left: 4 (Calgary, Vancouver, Minnesota, Colorado)

How they can win the division: They're young, they're offensive and they have nothing to lose. The Oilers are coming together at just the right time. The pressure may not get to the team's young leaders, who have improved all season. The team is playing its best hockey now at just the right time, but it would take a run for the ages to win the Northwest crown.

Why they won't win the division: They're too far back and have too many teams to pass to get to the top of the Northwest. The Oilers are a long, long shot but deserve credit just for making back into the race.
'There for teammates all the time'
Rypien, McIver: Watch out if punches start to fly once more

Ben Kuzma discusses the physical contributions of Rypien and McIver:

"We're going to ice a lineup that can take care of itself and go in and play a hard game." -- Canucks coach Alain Vigneault

On Feb. 16 at GM Place, the Oilers tried in vain to run the Canucks out of the rink in a 4-2 loss to the defending Northwest Division champion. The bitter rivals combined for 193 penalty minutes and engaged in seven bouts -- five of them in the final minute -- and the image of Matt Greene throwing punches at an unsuspecting Trevor Linden was not lost on the Canucks brain trust.

Enter Rypien and McIver.

Their inclusion in the lineup is a clear message that when push comes to shove, the Canucks are committed to setting the right physical tone tonight.

Rypien proved that Monday when he scored a decision over Phoenix enforcer Daniel Carcillo to ensure the Coyotes wouldn't gain momentum during a 3-1 Canuck win.

"I knew it was coming," said Vigneault. "I know Ryp. He understands what is expected of him and if Carcillo didn't want to go with Ryp, he had McIver in the back calling him out. That's just the way those guys play. They play hard and are there for their teammates all the time."

For Rypien, his bout Monday was just part of his agitating, in-your-face game that he hopes to bolster with more effective forechecking and fewer dumb penalties. The Carcillo confrontation was a good example of being willing and wise.

The Oilers remember Rypien. He had a goal and an assist in a 5-2 win at Edmonton on Oct. 13 and challenged Sheldon Souray to a late-game fight. The Oilers defenceman declined.

In a preseason game at Edmonton, Rypien received a five-minute major for charging and a game misconduct for running defenceman Mathieu Roy into the end boards. Roy was knocked unconscious and was carried off the ice on a stretcher. He suffered a mild concussion and a back injury.

"Pound for pound, he's probably the toughest guy in the AHL," said McIver. "He's not very big, but he can throw them with anyone. He's great on the forecheck, throws big hits and if the team needs a boost, he's always there to bring something."

McIver knows his skill level doesn't match that of Luc Bourdon, but his skating has improved dramatically the past two seasons because of an offseason devotion to power skating. McIver fought four times in the preseason and also proved he could adjust to the quicker NHL game.

"I thought some of the best hockey I've played was in the preseason," said McIver, who logged 8:06 and blocked two shots against the Coyotes on Monday.

"The coaches knew I could fight and play tough, but I showed them I could hold my own out there."

McIver has scrapped 10 times in the NHL this season and nine in the AHL and won't be a liability tonight if he plays measured minutes and answers the toughness bell.

"His skill level -- and I don't want to sound negative -- is limited a bit," said Vigneault. "But he makes the right reads and has that toughness element and all teams need that at one time or another. We need it and that's why he's here."
Shannon has big chance: Speedy forward just hopes scratches are done

Jason Botchford said Ryan Shannon will fill in for the injured Raymond:

With Mason Raymond sidelined for a month with an MCL sprain, Shannon is set to step into Raymond's enviable role.

He will get ice time. He will get power play chances. He will get to play with Taylor Pyatt and Henrik Sedin.

It's an opportunity Shannon coveted and similar to the one he took advantage of during a 10-game stretch, starting Feb. 14, when he produced nine points.

"I want to be in a scorer's role, I want to prove I belong in that role," Shannon said.

Shannon has had a wild season. Flavour of the moment coming out of training camp, he was a scapegoat and demoted after a huge October loss. He was forgotten after three knee injuries in Manitoba.

But he was rejuvenated in February when a spectacular shootout goal spurred him on to that nine-point, 10-game run, the best stretch of his career.

Shannon's luck turned sour again, however, when Morrison came back.

Shannon said watching games from the rafters has its advantages. The game slows down. Players' tendencies are revealed. And the incentive to get back on the ice grows.

"The game is always easy from way up there," Shannon said. "You know the exact positioning of the players on the ice. You can see their speed. It's easy to mentally go through what you would do. I started to visualize myself on the ice. If you visualize your game from the stands, it helps. I think it helped me.
Moran scores game-winner, adds assist as Moose defeat Rampage 3-2
The Canadian Press reviews the Manitoba Moose’s 7th straight win:

Brad Moran scored the game-winning goal and added an assist as the Manitoba Moose beat the San Antonio Rampage 3-2 Wednesday in American Hockey League action.

Shaun Heshka and Michael Grabner also scored for Manitoba (39-24-2-3). Peter Vandermeer and Mike Zigomanis replied for San Antonio (36-21-2-7).

Cory Schneider made 17 saves for the Moose while Al Montoya stopped 15 shots for the Rampage.
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