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Oilers-Penguins Preview @NHLdotcom
Oilers-Penguins Preview

GAME: Edmonton Oilers (23-15-4) at Pittsburgh Penguins (11-21-9).

TIME: Tuesday, 7:30 p.m. EST.

The suddenly struggling Edmonton Oilers will try to end an eight-game winless skid in Pittsburgh when they visit the Penguins.

Edmonton, which has lost four of its last six games overall, is 0-6-2 in its last eight visits to Mellon Arena, including a 4-3 overtime loss last February.

The Oilers suffered their first defeat of the new year with Saturday's 3-2 home setback to Toronto. Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Smyth scored for Edmonton, which enjoyed a 7-0-3 run before its current slide.

"When you've got to make up a lot of ground in the second half to get in, it's physically and emotionally taxing," said Edmonton center Michael Peca. "If you've got to go with two and three lines for 30 games to get back into it, it's difficult.

"We've got to set a goal that we want to get 25 wins in this half and get ourselves to 100 points."

The Penguins wrapped up the first half of their season by suffering a home-and-home sweep to Atlanta, including Saturday's 4-3 loss.

However, Pittsburgh has gone a respectable 3-4-3 under new coach Michael Therrien, and the impressive play of rookie sensation Sidney Crosby continues to provide hope for a brighter future for the Penguins.

The 18-year-old sniper is riding a 10-game scoring streak, seven shy of Teemu Selanne's record for first-year players. In 1993, Selanne recorded at least one point in 17 straight games for the Winnipeg Jets.

Crosby leads all rookies with 27 assists, and his 48 points trail only Washington's Alexander Ovechkin by a point for the overall rookie scoring lead.

The last time Crosby failed to record at least one point in a game was Dec. 13, when the Penguins lost 3-0 in St. Louis.

Mario Lemieux practiced with his teammates Monday for the first time in more than three weeks.

Lemieux, who has played only one game since Dec. 3 because of an irregular heartbeat, took part in one of the more laid-back sessions since Therrien took over as coach.

"It was a good day to come back," said Lemieux, who has recently been working out and skating on his own. "I got a good feel for (being with) the guys. It was a good first day."

Though neither he nor the team offered a timetable for his return, Lemieux ruled out playing in the next four games. He will accompany the club on its three-game road trip though Columbus, Chicago and Nashville.

STANDINGS (through Jan. 9): Oilers - 50 points, 4th place, 5 PB, Northwest Division. Penguins - 31 points, 5th place, 29 PB, Atlantic Division.

TEAM LEADERS: Oilers - Smyth, 19 goals; Horcoff, 31 assists and 42 points; Ethan Moreau, 55 PIM. Penguins - Crosby, 21 goals and 48 points; Zigmund Palffy, 28 assists; Orpik, 61 PIM.

SPECIAL TEAMS (through Jan. 9): Oilers - Power play: 19 percent (50 for 263), 9th in NHL. Penalty killing: 82.5 percent (215 for 257), 13th. Penguins - Power play: 17.9 percent (46 for 257), 14th . Penalty killing: 79.1 percent (157 for 277), tied for 28th.

GOALTENDERS: Oilers - Jussi Markkanen (13-10-3, 0 SO, 3.16 GAA); Ty Conklin (5-4-1, 1, 2.89). Penguins - Marc-Andre Fleury (5-9-3, 0, 3.17); Jocelyn Thibault (1-9-3, 0, 4.46).

2003-04 SEASON SERIES: Penguins, 2-0-0.

LAST MEETING: Feb. 18, 2004; Penguins, 4-3, OT. At Pittsburgh, Lemieux scored the game-winning goal 1:35 into overtime after Pittsburgh let a lead slip away late in the third period.

ROAD/HOME RECORDS: Oilers - 12-8-2 on the road; Penguins - 6-10-5 at home.

Associated Press
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