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At the Rink: Ducks at Oilers

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Oilers continue to have difficulty scoring.

Edmonton's inability to score more than two goals per game is a contributing factor in its struggles during the past month. The Oilers host the Anaheim Ducks at Rexall Place on Friday.

The Oilers (7-17-5) have lost two in a row and 13 of their past 14 games. They were unable to score more than two goals in 10 of those defeats, including a 2-1 loss at Anaheim on Wednesday.

"We definitely have a lot of skilled forwards in here that can put the puck in the net and we just have to find a way to be consistent in that," Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said. "We've been shooting the puck a lot this season. I think we get a lot of first shots, but I think we have to find those second and third shots and we'll have more success."

In 29 games, the Oilers have scored a Western Conference-low 63 goals. Only the Carolina Hurricanes (60), Florida Panthers (58) and Buffalo Sabres (52) have scored fewer goals.

"We just have to try and find the right spots," Nugent-Hopkins said. "The best goal-scorers, they just know where the puck is going to be, where to find that quiet area for that second [opportunity], and your linemates have to find you when you're in that quiet area."

Nugent-Hopkins scored Edmonton's only goal in the loss to the Ducks at Honda Center in the first game of the home-and-home series. It was his second goal in 14 games.

"We get into these situations where we have a number of guys having trouble pulling the trigger, you have to try and get it any way you can," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "I think the easy and the simplest solution is to say, 'Go to the net.' Except for there are other ways to score goals too. We wanted all of our guys to have a real, close self-assessment and see if there is some better spots for them to shoot the puck."

Edmonton's scoring struggles have resulted in 11 one-goal losses. The Ducks' win on Wednesday was their 12th consecutive win by a one-goal margin. Anaheim (19-6-5) is 15-0-5 in one-goal games

"They just want to give me an ulcer, that is the reason [for one-goal games]," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I have no idea why, but we look back and we want them just as wins. If it's by one goal or five goals, it doesn't really matter, as long as we get the two points."

Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy is scheduled to return to the lineup after missing 21 games with a broken finger sustained on Oct. 26 against the San Jose Sharks. Anaheim assigned defenseman Josh Manson to the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League to make room for Lovejoy on the roster.

"He's got great speed, he's a great defender," Boudreau said of Lovejoy. "He brings us the experience that maybe Josh didn't have and the defending ability. Especially playing teams that we're going to play on this trip with the speed that they have, then we need a Ben Lovejoy in the lineup."

The game against the Oilers is the first of a five-game Canadian road trip for the Ducks. Former Ducks goaltender Viktor Fasth will make his second consecutive start for the Oilers. Frederik Andersen will make his 17th consecutive start for Anaheim.

Here are the projected lineups:


Rene Bourque - Ryan Getzlaf - Devante Smith-Pelly

Matt Beleskey - Ryan Kesler - Kyle Palmieri

Andrew Cogliano - Rickard Rakell - Jakob Silfverberg

Patrick Maroon - Nate Thompson - Tim Jackman

Ben Lovejoy - Cam Fowler

Colby Robak - Hampus Lindholm

Sami Vatanen - Clayton Stoner

Frederik Andersen

Jason LaBarbera

Scratched: Mark Fistric, Chris Wagner

Injured: Corey Perry (knee), Francois Beauchemin (finger), Eric Brewer (foot), John Gibson (groin), Dany Heatley (groin)


Taylor Hall - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Tyler Pitlick

Nail Yakupov - Leon Draisaitl - Jordan Eberle

David Perron - Mark Arcobello - Teddy Purcell

Luke Gazdic - Matt Hendricks - Steve Pinizzotto

Andrew Ference - Justin Schultz

Oscar Klefbom - Jeff Petry

Brandon Davison - Mark Fayne

Viktor Fasth

Ben Scrivens

Scratched: Keith Aulie

Injured: Benoit Pouliot (foot), Boyd Gordon (back), Nikita Nikitin (back)

Status report: LaBarbera will serve as Andersen's backup after not dressing for five games due to a hand injury. … Edmonton transferred forward Jesse Joensuu to SC Bern of the National League A in Switzerland on Friday. The Oilers put Joensuu on waivers Nov. 30, but he remained with Edmonton after he cleared. Joensuu had two goals and two assists in 20 games this season.

Who's hot: Beleskey has seven goals in his past 11 games and shares the team lead in goals with Perry (14). Andersen has won his past five starts. … Perron had a five-game point streak snapped Wednesday. He has two goals in his past three games.

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