GAME: Vancouver Canucks (36-27-6) at Edmonton Oilers (34-23-11).
TIME: Tuesday, 9 p.m. EST.
The Vancouver Canucks take on the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place in the first of three straight meetings between the teams, a crucial stretch for a pair of clubs battling to secure a Western Conference playoff spot.
The West race is so tightly bunched that Vancouver and Edmonton are both in the thick of the race for the Northwest Division title - as well as in danger of missing the postseason. The Oilers are five points behind first-place Calgary, and the Canucks are six back, but seven teams fighting for the bottom six West playoff spots are separated by less than 10 points.
"I'm confident we'll make it," Vancouver captain Markus Naslund said of the Canucks' playoff hopes. "It doesn't look like it right now but we'll find a way."
Naslund's lack of confidence stems from the way his team has played of late. The Canucks have dropped six of their last seven games are coming off a 7-3 rout at the hands of the Detroit Red Wings on Sunday night.
Detroit outshot Vancouver 17-3 in the first period and 37-24 overall, racing out to a 4-0 lead.
Vancouver fell to 1-5-1 in its last seven at home after starting the season 19-3-3 there.
"We're fragile," Naslund said. "It seems every mistake we make is in the net."
The Canucks have been particularly fragile this season against the Oilers, who have won all five meetings. Vancouver and Edmonton meet again Tuesday and Thursday at GM Place to complete the season series.
The Oilers are looking to sweep the Canucks for the first time since entering the NHL in 1979-80.
Edmonton fared better than Vancouver did against Detroit, falling 4-3 to the Red Wings in a shootout Saturday in its last game. The Oilers failed to win their third straight, but still managed to pick up a point against the team with the league's best record.
"We lost a point and we wanted two points," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said. "We're marginally pleased."
Edmonton's Fernando Pisani scored a short-handed goal with 2:57 remaining to force overtime, but Jason Williams and Henrik Zetterberg beat Dwayne Roloson in the shootout to lift Detroit.
The Oilers have struggled to find consistent goaltending all season, and Roloson hasn't been the answer so far. Acquired from Minnesota on March 8, Roloson has given up 19 goals in six games with his new team.
Edmonton's last five games, and eight of its previous nine, have been decided by one goal.
STANDINGS: Canucks - 78 points, 4th place, 6 PB, Northwest Division. Oilers - 79 points, 3rd place, 5 PB, Northwest Division.
TEAM LEADERS: Canucks - Naslund, 29 goals; Henrik Sedin, 50 assists and 67 points; Jarkko Ruutu, 118 PIM. Oilers - Ryan Smyth, 31 goals; Ales Hemsky, 51 assists; Shawn Horcoff, 68 points; Jaroslav Spacek, 90 PIM.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Canucks - Power play: 18.2 percent (82 for 451), 12th in NHL. Penalty killing: 81.9 percent (362 for 442), 18th. Oilers - Power play: 18.1 percent (76 for 420), 13th. Penalty killing: 83.0 percent (342 for 412), 14th.
GOALTENDERS: Canucks - Alex Auld (28-21-4, 2.96 GAA); Mika Noronen (1-3-0, 4.16). Oilers - Roloson (8-19-3, 1 SO, 3.01); Jussi Markkanen (15-12-6, 3.13).
SEASON SERIES: Oilers, 5-0.
LAST MEETING: Feb. 4; Oilers, 3-1. At Edmonton, Alberta, Jarret Stoll got his first goal since Dec. 31 and Smyth and Raffi Torres scored on the power play for the Oilers.
ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Canucks - 16-19-2 on the road; Oilers - 16-12-6 at home.