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Oilers embrace spoiler role as Blue Jackets visit

by Robin Brownlee
EDMONTON -- Out of playoff contention or not, the Edmonton Oilers have something to play for in their remaining 18 games, starting against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Rexall Place tonight.

While they are 15th in the Western Conference and 24 points out of eighth place, the Oilers are embracing the role of spoilers against teams scrambling for playoff spots, like Columbus. And there's more.

"Guys who put the jersey on from this point on, you're auditioning for either more opportunity in our organization or the opportunity, period, to be here," coach Tom Renney said.

"Nobody is exempt from any type of further participation with our team, based on how they choose to play moving forward."

The Oilers edged Nashville 2-1 in a shootout Tuesday, costing the Predators a point they needed in their playoff push. The Blue Jackets, despite a hot streak, also have ground to make up.

"It's tough when you've got 18 games left and you know you aren't going to be in the playoffs," former Blue Jacket Gilbert Brule said. "It doesn't matter. We have to play the same, sacrifice and play hard for each other."

Bad news for Hemsky: The Oilers got some bad news Thursday as right wing Ales Hemsky, who left late in the third period against Nashville complaining of a sore right shoulder, has a damaged rotator cuff and could be out as long as three weeks. Hemsky had an MRI on Wednesday that revealed the damage.

It's been a tough season for Hemsky, who has been limited to 47 games because of a strained groin and a concussion.

Around the rink: The Blue Jackets picked up one point in a 2-1 shootout loss in Vancouver Tuesday and are 11-4-4 in their last 19 games, but are five points out of a playoff spot. ... Scottie Upshall, acquired from Phoenix at the trade deadline with Sami Lepisto for Rostislav Klesla and minor-leaguer Dane Byers, scored for Columbus against the Canucks in his debut and has 17 goals this season. ... The Blue Jackets have won two of three meetings in the season series, 3-2 in a shootout Oct. 28 and 4-3 on Feb. 5, while the Oilers prevailed 6-3 at Rexall Place on Dec. 16. ... Rick Nash has 11 goals and 24 points in his last 21 games.
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