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Oilers-Canucks Preview

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A brief holiday break might have been the best way for the Vancouver Canucks to recover from their worst game of the season.

The Canucks return to the ice on Friday night as they open their final three-game homestand of the calendar year against the Edmonton Oilers.

Vancouver, whose defense ranks among the league's best with 94 goals allowed, headed into its most recent contest having won five of eight and limited opponents to 2.5 tallies per game in that span.

But the Canucks (19-13-3) failed miserably in an attempt to contain one of the NHL's highest-scoring teams, falling 5-0 at league-leading San Jose on Tuesday. They were blanked for the third time this season, and for the second time in six games after a loss 3-0 on Dec. 13 at Edmonton (15-14-3).

Vancouver was playing its third contest in four days and allowed all five goals in the first 20:43.

With captain Roberto Luongo still nursing a groin injury, rookie Cory Schneider stopped just five of 10 shots before being replaced by Curtis Sanford for the Canucks, who fell out of the lead in the competitive Northwest Division after Calgary won earlier that night.

Sanford has compiled a 2.20 goals-against average in winning six of his last eight outings versus the Oilers. Schneider has allowed 12 goals in losing two of his last three starts and has never faced Edmonton.

With 41 points, the Canucks are one point behind the Flames - idle until Saturday against Ottawa - and have an eight-point lead over last-place Edmonton.

"I guess you have to work harder and get better, we've got a couple days to regroup and refocus, and get ready for our next game," Schneider told the Canucks' official Web site.

That comes in Vancouver, where the Canucks have outscored their opponents 32-20 while going 8-2-1 in their last 11.

Contributing to the Canucks' overall home success has been left wing Daniel Sedin, who has notched 10 goals and nine assists in 15 games there. Overall, he leads the team with 17 goals and 35 points.

Edmonton, meanwhile, has scored 87 goals this season to tie division rival Minnesota for second-fewest in the Western Conference.

After being outscored 16-6 in three straight losses, the Oilers headed into the holidays with a 4-2 home victory over Phoenix on Monday. Sheldon Souray and Andrew Cogliano scored power-play goals in the third period to snap a 2-2 tie.

Souray, Edmonton's second-leading scorer with 23 points, was relieved by the victory.

"When you lose these kind of games, especially with the situation we are in, it can kind of fester when you have a few days off," the defenseman said.

The Oilers have won six of their last nine road contests, and head to GM Place for the second time in 10 days following a 4-2 loss on Dec. 17. Edmonton is 2-5-1 in its last eight visits to Vancouver.

Right wing Ales Hemsky, who leads the Oilers with 10 goals and 23 assists, has five goals and 17 assists in 26 career games versus the Canucks.

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