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Horcoff set to return to Oilers lineup

by Robin Brownlee
EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Oilers will have captain Shawn Horcoff back in the lineup for the first time since Dec. 7 when they face the red-hot Dallas Stars at Rexall Place on Thursday night.

Horcoff, who missed 18 games with a sprained MCL of the right knee, will play between rookie Taylor Hall, who moves back to left wing after spending six games at center, and Dustin Penner.

"The timing and speed always takes a little time," said Horcoff, who was injured by a knee-on-knee hit with Anaheim's Corey Perry. "It takes a little bit, especially when you're jumping right at mid-season.

"Teams, at this point, are really starting to get their games together and the better teams are starting to separate themselves. I don't think it'll take long. I've been skating for a couple of weeks with the guys and, hopefully, just a couple of games and I'll be right back where I was."

The Oilers certainly hope so. They went 4-12-2 in Horcoff's absence and are coming off a 4-1 loss to Minnesota on Tuesday.

Watching, Horcoff said, has been made even more difficult because the Oilers, also without defenseman Ryan Whitney and Ales Hemsky, have been struggling. It's difficult to lead from the press box.

"It's tough," Horcoff said. "You can say whatever you want to guys, but when you're not playing games, it's hard to criticize when you're watching from on top. It's easy. Everybody knows what it's like from the press box."

Around the rink:
Dallas arrives on a four-game winning streak and is 6-0-1 in 2011. …  The Oilers have lost three games in a row and have just two wins (2-10-2) in their last 14 games. … The Stars beat the Oilers 3-2 in Dallas on Jan. 11 in the first meeting of the season. … Loui Eriksson is on a 10-game points streak with 2-10-2 in that span and Mike Ribeiro is on a nine-game streak with 3-8-11. … The Oilers snapped a franchise record 0-for-44 scoreless streak on the power play with a goal by Magnus Paajarvi in the loss to Minnesota. … Dallas has won five of the last six meetings between the teams at Rexall Place dating to the start of the 2007-08 season. … Nikolai Khabibulin, who has lost his last nine starts, will again get the call in goal for the Oilers.
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