The fourth game and second Canadian stop on the Oilers seven-game road trip goes tonight in our nations capital.
Edmonton caught a break on Sunday night when the Minnesota Wild fell 5-2 to the St. Louis Blues. A date with Minnesota is looming on the final game of the road trip and the Oilers can potentially close the gap to six points plus a game in hand with a victory tonight. The Wild are in Dallas to face the red-hot Stars.
The Oilers fell behind early in Toronto on Saturday and despite a frantic rally late could never tie it up, ultimately losing 4-3.
"Mental errors have cost us and its important that we try to get out of those situations," Ryan Smyth
said after the game.
After a tough game to open the trip in Boston, the Oilers responded with one of their better efforts of late in Buffalo last Thursday and also played well on Saturday but only have one point to show for the first three games of this seven-game jaunt.
"Weve got to find ways to win games. Playing well isnt good enough for us," noted Oilers defenceman Steve Staios.
A playoff spot is still within sights, particularly with five games remaining against the eighth-place Wild, but the team needs to catch some breaks on this trip very soon.
"Were past the point of looking for someone else to do our work," remarked Oilers assistant coach Craig Simpson. "If were going to have success, its going to have to be with us winning games and us turning things around."
Last season, the Ottawa Senators looked practically unbeatable during the regular season after skating out to a 19-3-0 start and then cruising to a franchise-high 113 points. However, this year the club stumbled out of the gate at 7-11-1 and have been playing catch-up ever since.
Now the team seems to have finally found its game and is rising quickly in the Eastern Conference. The Sens are 17-4-2 in its last 23 outings including four straight wins going into tonight. Six weeks ago, Ottawa was battling for its playoff lives but now they sit in fifth and are chasing Pittsburgh for fourth place and home-ice advantage in the first round.
"We've had games this year where we needed a big win and we've come through with that," Senators defenceman Wade Redden told the Ottawa Sun recently. "The whole month of January we knew that was going to be the time that makes or breaks us, and we lost one or two games."
The Sens havent even been slowed by a recent three-game suspension to starting goaltender Ray Emery, who will serve the third game tonight. Backup Martin Gerber has stepped in and won each of his last two starts.
"Right from the goalie out, everyone feels good about each other here," said Redden.
In their last six home games, Ottawa is 5-0-1 including a dramatic come-from-behind victory Saturday night against the Atlanta Thrashers. The Sens trailed Atlanta 3-2 heading into the third period but rallied on goals by former Oilers Mike Comrie and Dean McAmmond to take the lead. Mike Fisher added an empty-netter to make the final 5-3 Ottawa.
LINEUP UPDATE (10:54 AM):
The Oilers will be shuffling up their lineup tonight. Starting in goal will be Jussi Markkanen. The top line remains Hemsky-Horcoff-Smyth but the second line will be Raffi Torres, Marc Pouliot and Joffrey Lupul. Toby Petersen, Petr Sykora and Patrick Thoresen are line three while J-F Jacques, Marty Reasoner and Brad Winchester will make up the fourth unit. On defence, Matt Greene draws out so the third pairing will be Mathieu Roy and Tom Gilbert.
TONIGHT'S GAME ON PPV:
Tonight's game will be available on pay-per-view via Shaw Digital Cable, Star Choice and Bell Expressvu. If you don't have any of those three service providers you can still catch tonight's game at one of four participating Cineplex Odeon, Galaxy or Silver City theatres.
ROSTER UPDATES: Edmonton – Ethan Moreau (shoulder) is out. Jarret Stoll (concussion) is out. Fernando Pisani (concussion) is out. Petr Nedved (knee) is doubtful. Daniel Tjarnqvist (inflamed pubic bone) is doubtful. Ottawa – Ray Emery (suspension) is out.
OILERS TO WATCH: Raffi Torres did a good job setting the physical tone early against Toronto with four hits in the first period. He had five hits total and three shots on goal Shawn Horcoff
followed up his performance on Thursday night where he had a goal and eight shots with another strong game. He had seven shots to lead the Oilers Marc Pouliot had arguably his best game as a pro Saturday with five shots, a goal and a +2 rating in almost 15 minutes of ice-time. He also led all Oilers in the faceoff circle at 64%.
SENATORS TO WATCH: Goaltender Martin Gerber is expected to get the start once again tonight for the Sens since starting netminder Ray Emery will be serving the third game of his three-game suspension tonight. On Saturday, Gerber played back-to-back games for the first time since November 11 & 13 and has now won each of his last five starts. Gerber has never beaten the Oilers in three all-time meetings (0-3-0) but has only allowed four goals combined in those three games. (1.34 goals-against average) Former Oiler Mike Comrie has enjoyed a resurgence since being traded to Ottawa. In 18 games, he has eight goals and 13 points.
FAST FACTS: Since the Ottawa Senators rejoined the NHL in 1993, no NHL team has had a better record versus the Sens than Edmonton at 12-6-4. In recent times, the Sens have fared even worse with a 3-11-4 record since December 1995. Last time these two teams met was back on January 14, 2006 and Ottawa came out on top 5-3 With a win tonight, Senators head coach Bryan Murray would become the fourth head coach in NHL history to win 600 games.