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Oilers host Vancouver tonight

by Staff Writer / Edmonton Oilers

The red-hot Vancouver Canucks come to town tonight as the Canucks and Oilers meet for the eighth and final time this season.

Vancouver, with only two regulation losses in their last 17 games (13-2-2) opened the month of March with five straight wins, setting a franchise record for wins to start that month.

Most recently, Vancouver defeated Detroit on Saturday night, disposing of the league's number one team by a score of 4-1.

"That's the way we have to preserve leads and this was huge," said Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo, who made 38 saves in the win. "It was a good statement game for us and (showed) we can match up with anybody in this league."

The victory moved the Canucks back in front of Minnesota for top spot in the Northwest Division at 92 points. The Wild have 91 in what will be a battle between the two clubs for home ice advantage in the first round.

Edmonton finally put an end to its nine-game losing streak on Saturday night but still came away without a win in their 3-2 overtime defeat versus St. Louis.

"It's really disappointing," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish. "I thought we played all right in the third, but in the first two periods we were not good.

"We came in and had some chances and ended up getting a break finally on the power-play goal."

Shawn Horcoff's power play marker tied the game in the third period but Eric Brewer scored in overtime to give the Blues two points.

The overtime loss was a costly one as well as the team lost defenceman Ladislav Smid after taking a puck in the kidneys. Edmonton called up blueliner Sebastien Bisaillon from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League on Sunday and he will make his NHL debut tonight.

In the seven previous meetings, Vancouver has won five times while Edmonton has prevailed twice.

Edmonton is playing the third game in their six-game homestand to close out the Rexall Place portion of their schedule.

OILERS TO WATCH: Raffi Torres always seems to have a good game when Vancouver is the opposition. This season, Torres has five points (two goals, three assists) in seven games to lead the Oilers in scoring against Vancouver. Last season, Torres had seven goals and eight points in eight games versus Vancouver Petr Sykora also has five points this season against the Canucks (1 goal, 4 assists) Shawn Horcoff leads Edmonton in goals for the season series with three goals in seven games.

CANUCKS TO WATCH: On Thursday night, Canucks goaltender Roberto Luongo had his 40th win of the season after Vancouver defeated St. Louis. The win made Luongo only the sixth active goaltender to achieve 40 or more wins in a season. He also won again Saturday, adding to his Canucks franchise record for wins in a season by a goaltender – the previous mark was 38, set by Kirk McLean in 1991-92 Daniel Sedins previous career high in goals was 22 heading into this season but he already has 31 this year.

ROSTER UPDATES: Edmonton – Ladislav Smid (kidneys) is questionable. Joffrey Lupul (flu) is questionable. Jarret Stoll (concussion) is doubtful. Ethan Moreau (shoulder) is doubtful. Marty Reasoner (shoulder) is doubtful. Steve Staios (knee) is doubtful. Daniel Tjarnqvist (inflamed pubic bone) is out. Mathieu Roy (concussion) is out. Tom Gilbert (concussion) is out. Jan Hejda (shoulder) is out. Ales Hemsky (shoulder) is out. Petr Nedved (knee) is out; Vancouver – Willie Mitchell (groin) is questionable. Josh Green (knee) is questionable. Ryan Kesler (hip) is out.

FAST FACTS: Vancouver is closing in on the franchise record for wins in a single season. Having surpassed 43 victories with 10 games still remaining on the schedule, the Canucks only need three more wins to match the mark of 46 set in 1992-93 With 27 of their 43 wins coming in one-goal games, the Canucks are tied with New Jersey for the league lead in that category. Overall, Vancouver is 27-10-6 in games decided by one goal.
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