The Edmonton Oilers return from the Christmas break with their first game of this season against the Los Angeles Kings. Tonights game is the second last game at Rexall Place in 2006.
Edmonton has dropped five of its last seven games including its last game before Christmas, a 3-2 setback in Dallas but still finds itself in the mix in the Northwest Division.
One point separates first from fifth in the tightest division in hockey. Vancouver now sits on top at 39 points with a four-way tie for second place at 38 points. Of those four teams, Edmonton and Calgary have played the fewest number of games and the Oilers can put themselves in a favourable position with a win tonight having three games in hand on Saturday's opponent, Vancouver.
Los Angeles finally snapped a four-game losing streak on Tuesday night with a shootout win over the Phoenix Coyotes and has certainly fallen on some hard times since the injury of starting goaltender Mathieu Garon. Overall, the Kings are 3-7-1 since Garon went down with a groin injury.
OILERS TO WATCH: Ales Hemsky
and Petr Sykora have been reunited with the return of Hemsky to the Edmonton lineup from injury. In the four games since Hemsky returned, number 83 has a goal and three assists while Sykora has three goals and two helpers. Sykora had one point (an assist) in the five games leading up to Hemskys return Jarret Stoll was held off the scoresheet last game but he had picked up points in eight of nine games before the Dec. 23 match-up with Dallas. He has climbed to second in team scoring with 26 points.
KINGS TO WATCH: Rookie forward Anze Kopitar has really lit the league on fire this year. With 11 goals and 33 points in 38 games, he ranks second on the team in scoring and right now is one of the hottest Kings with points in six of his last seven games (five goals, four assists) Mike Cammalleri is also having a strong season. Playing only his second full year, hes on pace to set career highs in goals, assists and points. Currently, Cammalleri is third on the team with 13 goals and 30 points On a team with mostly minus players, centre Derek Armstrong is a team-best +9 and ranks fifth in team scoring with 23 points. SMYTH IS IN: Ryan Smyth
is expected to make his return to the Oilers lineup tonight, likely starting out on the third or fourth line. Coach MacTavish noted that as Smyth gets more comfortable he could move up the lineup.
ROSTER UPDATES: Edmonton – Ethan Moreau (shoulder) is out. Ryan Smyth
(thumb) will play; Los Angeles – Mathieu Garon (groin) is probable. Alyn McCauley (knee) is out. Dan Cloutier (hip) is out.
OILERS NEAR MILLENNIUM MARK:
For the second time, the Oilers will be attempting to reach 1000 wins in franchise history tonight. The club dropped their game in Dallas last Saturday on their first try. All-time, the Oilers have a record of 999-806-277-29 in 2111 games. The win would make them the 17th franchise in NHL history with 1000 victories and they would become the third-fastest team in league history to reach the milestone. Only Philadelphia (2018) and Montreal (2064) have done it faster.
"We know he's an NHL player, now we're just waiting for an opportunity to see if he's better than what we have. The rest is up to him. He's got to go in and out-play somebody else." - Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish on defenceman Jan Hejda, who was just recalled from Hamilton (AHL) and could draw back into the lineup tonight.