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Struggling Oilers invade Vancouver

by Brian Compton /

OILERS (10-12-4) at CANUCKS (13-11-0)

Last 10 -- Edmonton 3-4-3; Vancouver 6-4-0.

Season series -- This is the third of six meetings between the Northwest Division rivals. The teams have split the first two games, with Vancouver taking Round 2 in a 2-0 victory on Oct. 25 at General Motors Place.

Big story -- It may be November, but this could be make-or-break time for the Oilers, who begin a six-game road trip on Saturday night. They're currently tied for 12th place in the Western Conference, five points out of the final playoff spot.

What's worse, they'll have to do it without the services of Ales Hemsky. The Oilers said Friday that the top-six forward will undergo surgery on his left shoulder and miss the rest of the season.

''It's frustrating because it's a big year for a lot of players,'' Hemsky said. ''Especially considering it's an Olympic year, but there's nothing I can do. It's no fun playing with an injury like that. I tried, but it just didn't work out.''

Team Scope :

Oilers -- Edmonton is coming off an extremely tough loss on Friday night. The Oilers, who have won only four times in their last 17 games, were just 86 seconds away from a 4-3 victory when San Jose's Patrick Marleau scored shorthanded to tie the game, and the Sharks left Rexall Place with a 5-4 shootout victory. It was Marleau's third goal of the night.

"We did a lot of good things … but we're not ready to win yet, I guess," Edmonton coach Pat Quinn said. "There's no way we should have lost this game. We don't cover well around our net. We've just given up too many points."

Canucks -- It wasn't Thanksgiving in Canada, but Vancouver was certainly thankful for Henrik Sedin on Thursday night. The Swedish center had a goal and an assist to lead the Canucks to an impressive 4-1 win against the Los Angeles Kings atGM Place. Roberto Luongo made 31 saves as Vancouver won for the third time in four tries.

"Faceoffs are something we've been working at every day," said Sedin, who won a draw in the offensive zone that led to the game's opening goal. "It's a big part of the game -- to start with the puck -- so it's huge for us."

Who's hot -- Edmonton forward Ryan Potulny scored twice on Friday and now has 5 goals in 10 games … Henrik Sedin has 7 goals in his last eight games for the Canucks and leads the team with 14 tallies and 26 points.

Injury report - In addition to Hemsky, Oilers forward Marc Pouliot (sports hernia surgery) is out until early January. Left wing Ryan Stone (knee) is doubtful. Taylor Chorney (ankle) is day-to-day. Robert Nilsson (concussion) is questionable. Fernando Pisani (colitis) is out indefinitely. Denis Grebeshkov (knee) could miss another month, while goalie Nikolai Khabibulin is day-to-day. … Canucks forward Rick Rypien is questionable with a lower-body injury. Pavol Demitra (shoulder) has resumed skating but is expected to miss at least another month. Alex Bolduc (shoulder) is skating but likely will not play, while Michael Grabner (ankle) is out 4-6 weeks.

Stat pack -- Vancouver forward Kyle Wellwood, with just two assists in 19 games, notched his first goal of the season on Thursday with an empty-net tally. He had 18 goals and 27 assists last season. Tanner Glass also scored in the victory, but his goal was initially credited to Wellwood.

"I've never seen that, a guy get a standing ovation for an open net when he busts his egg," teammate Tanner Glass said. "Then again, I've never been booed at home for scoring, either."

Puck drop -- If there's any positive from Friday's loss to the Sharks, it's the fact that the Oilers don't have much time to dwell on it. However, without Hemsky (and perhaps Khabibulin, too), the Oilers have a tough time ahead of them on a road trip that doesn't conclude until Dec. 11.

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