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Oilers will have Hemsky back to face Habs

by Arpon Basu
MONTREAL -- The Edmonton Oilers are on their best run of the season with three wins in their past five games, and the bulk of that was done without top winger Ales Hemsky.

But after a three-game absence with a groin problem, Hemsky will be back in the lineup Wednesday night when the Oilers take on the Montreal Canadiens at the Bell Centre.

"It's improved a lot," Hemsky said of the injury. "I still feel it a little bit, but I just have to be smart about it."

Edmonton coach Tom Renney said he will manage Hemsky's ice time, but that his star player was already held out of the 4-1 win in Ottawa on Monday almost against his will.

"He felt he might have been able to go in Ottawa, but he still had pain and discomfort, so there was an executive decision made there," Renney said. "But now he's a full go."

Hemsky will play on a line with Sam Gagner and Magnus Paajarvi, giving Renney three lines that can score to face the League's top defensive team, with Montreal allowing a stingy 1.96 goals against per game despite giving up an average of 30.9 shots, 13th highest in the NHL.

A big reason for that is goaltender Carey Price, who will be awarded the Molson Cup for a second month in a row prior to the game for gathering the most three star selections in November as voted on by the fans.

Price had an 8-4-0 record in the month with a 1.59 goals against average and .952 save percentage, earning him the nod as the NHL's second star of the month as well.

Wednesday night's game also marks the goalie's first since the end of "Movember," meaning the moustache he was grooming in support of prostate cancer research was gone at the morning skate.

Facing Price in the Oilers net will be Devan Dubnyk, but it's his backup that is of note as Nikolai Khabibulin will be in uniform for the first time since suffering a groin injury Nov. 17.

With Khabibulin coming off injured reserve the Oilers assigned Martin Gerber back to Oklahoma City of the American Hockey League on Tuesday in spite of the 2-0-0 record and .950 save percentage he posted with Edmonton.

"It's too bad that this is how the game works," Renney said. "When a guy comes off IR, this is just how it is."

But Renney added on Gerber, "He's an NHL goalie."

For the Canadiens, Jaroslav Spacek will play in his 800th career NHL game, making him the fifth Czech defenseman ever to reach the mark following his defensive partner Roman Hamrlik (1,254 GP), former Hab Petr Svoboda (1,028), Pavel Kubina (846) of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Tomas Kaberle (842) of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Both Spacek and Hamrlik are former Oilers, with Spacek playing a big role in Edmonton's run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2006.

The Oilers have not won in Montreal since Feb 15, 2003, and they have not won consecutive games since winning the first two games of the season.
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