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Number 11 goes up tonight

by Staff Writer / Edmonton Oilers

After a season-long seven-game road trip, the Edmonton Oilers return to Rexall Place to kick off a four-game homestand on a night where the team will honour Mark Messiers number 11 by raising it to the rafters.

Following Sunday afternoons loss to Minnesota, each game gains more and more importance for Edmonton. The Oilers are now nine points behind Minnesota and Calgary for the last playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Last season, the San Jose Sharks were 10 points out of a playoff spot at the trade deadline but still managed to finish fifth in the conference after some strong play down the stretch so there is plenty of hockey to be played.

Phoenix, however, is playing for next season at 20 points out of the race. Before defeating Calgary in overtime last Thursday, the Coyotes had lost six straight games. Last night they fell 5-2 to the Flames.

OILERS TO WATCH: Ales Hemsky has netted 49 points in 54 games to rank tied for second on the Oilers in scoring. He has picked up points in four of the teams last five games Raffi Torres has netted a point in three of the last four games for the Oilers (1g, 2a). He leads all forwards on the team with 91 hits Marc Pouliot has found his game since being recalled from Wilkes-Barre/Scranton of the American Hockey League earlier this month. He has seven points on the season in 26 games but four of those points have come in his last nine outings. Hes also fired 22 shots in those nine games as opposed to only 13 in the previous 17.

COYOTES TO WATCH: Shane Doan has really improved his game in the second half of the season for Phoenix. After starting the year with six goals and 12 points in his first 26 games, he has 14 goals and 24 points in his last 26 Oleg Saprykin has climbed up to second in scoring among active Coyotes with 34 points and tied for third on the team with 14 goals. Saprykin had picked up four goals in five games heading into last nights action Yanic Perreault has proven to be one of the best mid-season acquisitions in the NHL. Signed over a month into the season, Perreault is second on the Coyotes with 18 goals and tied for third with 32 points in 48 games. He also leads the league in faceoff percentage at 62.5%.

ROSTER UPDATES: Edmonton – Jarret Stoll (concussion) is out. Ethan Moreau (shoulder) is doubtful. Tom Gilbert (concussion) is doubtful. Petr Nedved (knee) is doubtful. Daniel Tjarnqvist (inflamed pubic bone) is out. Ladislav Smid (knee) is doubtful; Phoenix – Mike Ricci (neck) is out. Dave Scatchard (concussion) is out. Patrick Fischer (groin) is out. Ed Jovanovski (abdominal) is doubtful.

FAST FACTS: Coyotes netminder and former Oiler Curtis Joseph is five wins away from tying Terry Sawchuk for fourth on the NHLs all-time list Phoenix has won 13 times when giving up the games first goal which ranks third in the NHL. Only Minnesota (14) and Buffalo (14) have won more The Oilers have taken two out of three meetings with Phoenix so far this season, but the Coyotes power play has performed well against Edmonton. The Coyotes have converted on four of 14 opportunities for a 22.2% efficiency rating The Coyotes top scorer against the Oilers this season has been Mike Comrie, who was dealt to Ottawa several weeks ago.
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