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Oilers to play Hemsky at left wing alongside Gagner

by Derek Van Diest

EDMONTON -- The Edmonton Oilers may not admit to showcasing Sam Gagner and Ales Hemsky, but the two will be on display Thursday against the Minnesota Wild.

Hemsky will move up to play left wing on the Oilers' second line alongside Gagner and Jordan Eberle. It's the first time this season Hemsky has played left wing.

"We've been able to develop some chemistry and feed off each other," Gagner said. "He's a guy that likes the puck on the fly. The left wing is going to be a little different for him. When he gets that speed going, though, he's an amazing player. It should be a fun night."

Both Gagner and Hemsky have been rumored to be on the move as the March 5 NHL Trade Deadline approaches.

With the Oilers out of the race for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, general manager Craig MacTavish is in selling mode and went on the record stating he would be trying to acquire second- and third-round draft picks prior to the deadline.

Moving Hemsky to the left wing from his natural right side allows him to play on the second line.

"It's a little different, he's obviously used to the right side having played there so much," Gagner said. "I don't think [Eberle] and Hemsky have had a chance to play together because they're both on the right side. It's a new challenge for them, I'm sure they're excited for it."

Thursday is the first game back from the Olympic break for both teams.

The Oilers enter having won five of their previous seven games. The Wild are on a two-game win streak.

"I want to see us get back to our game quickly," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "That's what we talked about this morning, the preparation. Of course we want to play well and want the end result to be positive. But let's make sure we're preparing with the idea that there is a way we have to play, with the puck, without the puck, the work ethic that we have to bring, so let's start with that."

Wild center Mikko Koivu will not play against the Oilers. He is still recovering from a fractured ankle sustained on Jan. 4. Goaltender Darcy Kuemper gets the start over Niklas Backstrom, who has an abdominal injury but will dress as the backup.

Ben Scrivens will start in goal for the Oilers.

Here are the lineups for both the Oilers and the Wild.


Zach PariseMikael GranlundJason Pominville

Dany HeatleyCharlie CoyleJustin Fontaine

Matt CookeKyle BrodziakNino Niederreiter

Stephane VeilleuxErik HaulaTorrey Mitchell

Ryan SuterJared Spurgeon

Jonas BrodinNate Prosser

Clayton StonerKeith Ballard

Darcy Kuemper

Niklas Backstrom

Scratched: Mike Rupp, Steven Kampfer

Injured: Marco Scandella (knee), Mikko Koivu (ankle), Jason Zucker (leg), Josh Harding (illness)


Taylor HallRyan Nugent-HopkinsNail Yakupov

Ales HemskySam GagnerJordan Eberle

Matt HendricksBoyd GordonDavid Perron

Luke GazdicRyan SmythRyan Jones

Martin MarincinJeff Petry

Nick SchultzJustin Schultz

Andrew FerenceAnton Belov

Ben Scrivens

Ilya Bryzgalov

Scratched: Jesse Joensuu, Mark Fraser, Corey Potter

Injured: Philip Larsen (illness)

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