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Crucial match-up in Minny tonight

by Staff Writer / Edmonton Oilers

For the first of four times this season, the Oilers travel to Minnesota and face the Wild. In total, Edmonton meets Minnesota seven times in their final 39 games of the season and if the recent fluctuation in the standings is any indication each game should have heavy implications.

The Wild right now are five points ahead of the Oilers but Edmonton has one game in hand. Minnesota has won each of its last three games, including a 4-2 win over the Oilers this past Friday.

Edmonton had picked up points in five straight games to start 2007 until running into some difficulty on the weekend. They dropped a 4-2 decision to Minnesota Friday and followed that with a 3-1 loss in Calgary Saturday. The club is now 0-6-1 in its last seven Northwest Division games.

The Oilers' last win against a Northwest Division opponent was over Minnesota back on December 14.

OILERS TO WATCH: Shawn Horcoff has started to pick up his play of late. In his last six games, he has scored three goals and added two assists for five points. He has 10 points (4g, 6a) in his last 11 games and overall is riding a two-game goal-scoring streak... Ales Hemsky was held off the scoresheet last time these two teams met, halting a five-game scoring streak but has picked up points in six of his last seven games. Hemsky has two goals and six helpers during that span.

WILD TO WATCH: As Oilers fans found out on Friday, Manny Fernandez is playing his best hockey of the season right now. In his last six starts, Fernandez is 6-1-1 with a 2.20 GAA and .920 save percentage... Marian Gaborik has now picked up at least a goal in each of his last three games. He has five goals during the streak... Defenceman Keith Carney has picked up at least a point in each of his last three games (1g, 2a) which matches a career high.

ROSTER UPDATES: Edmonton - Ethan Moreau (shoulder) is out. Daniel Tjarnqvist (inflamed pubic bone) is out. Steve Staios is questionable. Minnesota - Petteri Nummelin (upper body) is out. Derek Boogaard (head) is questionable. Mark Parrish (lower body) is probable. Kim Johnsson (lower body) is questionable.

LINEUP UPDATE (3:19 PM): Tom Gilbert is expected to return to the lineup tonight for the Oilers with Mathieu Roy taking a seat in the press box... Wild forward Mark Parrish makes his return to the lineup tonight after missing three games with a lower body injury. Derek Boogaard is close to returning as well for Minnesota.

FAST FACTS: Edmonton is 9-2-2-1 all-time at the Xcel Energy Center... The Wild went 3-1-0 on their recent four-game road trip. Prior to the trip, they had four wins on the road all season... Minnesota leads the league in overtime wins with 13 and in shootout wins with eight... 26 of the Wild's 46 games have been decided by a single goal, with Minnesota holding a 15-8-3 record in those games... Last meeting between these teams, the Oilers killed off all eight Minnesota power plays. However, while the Wild are 30th in the league with the man advantage on the road (9.7%) they're much better at home. Overall, the Wild have the fifth-best power play on home ice with a 22.8% success rating.
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