With the 1000th win monkey off their backs, the Edmonton Oilers meet the Dallas Stars tonight as they try to claw their way back into the Western Conference playoff picture.
Despite dropping eight of 10 games prior to the win on Tuesday, the Oilers are still within striking distance of top spot in the Northwest. The win over Florida moved Edmonton into a tie with Colorado for fourth in the division and allowed them to keep pace with first-place Minnesota, who sit four points up though the Oilers have a game in hand.
Having been crippled by injuries for much of December, Dallas was able to battle through and keep pace with Anaheim and San Jose in their division. The Stars are now only one point behind the Sharks for second in the Pacific and 11 points behind the Ducks with a game in hand.
The two teams have met three previous times this season. Dallas won 3-2 in Edmonton in late November, the Oilers won 2-0 in early December and several weeks ago the Stars prevailed 3-2 in Dallas.
OILERS TO WATCH: All eyes will be on Petr Nedved tonight as he makes his return to the Oilers lineup after being claimed off re-entry waivers from Philadelphia on Tuesday. Nedved has had a rough go of it this season with only one goal and seven points through 21 games in the NHL. He also has a -20 rating which ranks last in the entire NHL. However, Nedved had a lot of success last time he was in Edmonton. He had three goals in his first four games and six points in his first five outings. The Oilers had a record of 8-5-1 down the stretch with him in the lineup.
STARS TO WATCH: Marty Turco has played nearly every game this season for the Stars as one of the leagues busiest netminders. He has put up some strong numbers with a 20-12-1 record as well as a 2.19 goals-against average and .916 save percentage. Since Turco played last night, there's a chance backup Mike Smith might make a rare appearance. He has a 5-3-0 record with a 2.09 GAA The top two scorers on the Stars are both defencemen – Philippe Boucher (12 goals, 29 points) and Sergei Zubov (7 goals, 27 points) Mike Modano is close to returning to the lineup. He has been out of action since December 6 with a lower body injury.LINEUP UPDATE (11:54 AM):
Nedved will be playing on a line with Petr Sykora and Ales Hemsky
. As a result, Ryan Smyth
will play with Horcoff and Joffrey Lupul. The Stoll-Pisani-Torres line remains in tact with the fourth line being Reasoner, Jacques and Pouliot.
ROSTER UPDATES: Edmonton – Ethan Moreau (shoulder) is out; Dallas – Mike Modano (lower body) is questionable. Steve Ott (fractured ankle) is questionable. Eric Lindros (lower body) is questionable. Brenden Morrow (wrist) is doubtful.
FAST FACTS: Heading into last nights game against Vancouver, the Stars power play had scored seven goals in three games for a 41.2% efficiency rating (7-for-17) but they were 0-for-7 last night against the Canucks. Overall, Dallas is 16.9% which is good enough for 18th in the league Since the start of the 2002-03 season, Dallas has the leagues best record when leading after the first period at 90-8-7 Marty Turco is only three wins away from Ed Belfours franchise record of 160 wins.