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Oilers take show on the road

by Staff Writer / Edmonton Oilers

The finish to Thursday night's game was one for the ages but the Edmonton Oilers now have to regroup for a key intra-divisional game tonight in Vancouver with a chance to gain some ground on the first-place Canucks.

The Oilers currently have a game in hand on Vancouver but sit four points back. Perhaps more importantly, Edmonton is three points behind Calgary and Minnesota for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Heading into the Christmas break, the Canucks looked to be on their last legs. They were fading fast in the Northwest Division and Western Conference standings and had just lost three straight games.

However, they came out of the break with five wins against difficult opposition including three over Calgary and one each against Edmonton and Dallas. As a result, the Canucks now find themselves in top spot.

OILERS TO WATCH: Ryan Smyth has put up points in every game since his return to the lineup in late December. During his five-game scoring streak, he has five goals and four assists for nine points. Last night was also Smyth's eighth multiple-point game of the season which ties him with Jarret Stoll for the team lead... Petr Nedved scored a power play goal with 13:47 of icetime in his return to the Oilers last night... Jussi Markkanen is expected to get the start in goal tonight for the Oilers. Assuming he gets the call, of his seven starts this season, three have been against Vancouver.

CANUCKS TO WATCH: A big reason for the Canucks' resurgence has been the play of Roberto Luongo. He has allowed two goals or less in four of his last five games - all Canuck wins... The Sedins - Henrik and Daniel - sit first and second respectively in Vancouver scoring with 40 and 38 points... Markus Naslund has not scored a goal since November 28, a span of 16 games, but has four assists in his last five games.

ROSTER UPDATES: Edmonton - Ethan Moreau (shoulder) is out. Ladislav Smid (shoulder) is out. Daniel Tjarnqvist (hip) is questionable. Vancouver - Tommi Santala (knee) is out. Rick Rypien (groin) is out.

FAST FACTS: The Oilers' penalty kill has become somewhat of a Jekkyl and Hyde story this season. On home ice, it is tied for 27th in the league at 79.8% having given up 20 goals on 99 opportunities. On the road, it's been a different story with only seven goals allowed on 101 chances for a league-best 93.1% efficiency rating. Overall, the Oilers' PK is fourth in the NHL... Vancouver is in a similar but reversed situation as their penalty kill at home is the best in the league at 93.6%. On the road it's 12th in the NHL (82.7%) and overall second in the league at 87.7%.

QUOTABLE: "We were bestowed a miracle. I've never seen anything like it in my entire life. It would have been nice to come in here and talk about winning the game in the shootout, but at least we turned a disaster into a debacle."
-- Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish on the wild sequence of events that resulted in the Oilers tying the game up in Dallas last night. Stars forward Patrik Stefan missed an empty-netter from about two feet out and the Oilers were able to convert that into Ales Hemsky's game-tying goal with two seconds to go in the game.

  • Click here to view Hemsky's goal
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