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Oilers visit Vancouver tonight

by Staff Writer / Edmonton Oilers

The Edmonton Oilers have an opportunity to move within four points of top spot in the Northwest Division tonight when they face the division-leading Vancouver Canucks at GM Place.

Edmonton concluded their five-game homestand with back-to-back wins, including a 5-2 defeat of the Columbus Blue Jackets last night. They are now tied with Colorado for fourth in the Northwest and ninth in the Western Conference. Eighth-place Minnesota is four points up but the Oilers still have a game in hand.

Vancouver has been one of the hottest teams in the league since the Christmas break. Heading into the break, the Canucks had lost three straight and saw their record fall to 17-18-1 but since that time they have only one regulation loss in 15 games (11-1-3).

OILERS TO WATCH: The question for tonight is which line will step up? On Saturday, the line of Shawn Horcoff, Ales Hemsky and Ryan Smyth racked up 11 points and last night it was the Jarret Stoll, Fernando Pisani, Raffi Torres line that shone. Joffrey Lupul has only one goal in his last 11 games but had one of his stronger efforts in recent outings with four shots in 17:40 of ice. Petr Sykora ended a six-game scoreless slump so that line could be on the verge of breaking out.

CANUCKS TO WATCH: Kevin Bieksa has emerged as one of the Canucks' top defencemen during this breakout season. He leads all Vancouver blueliners with 30 points while averaging almost 25 minutes a night. He had six assists in 39 games during his rookie campaign last season... With 28 wins, a 2.35 goals-against average and .920 save percentage Roberto Luongo is coming as advertised and is a huge reason for his team's success. He has appeared in 48 of the team's 51 games this year.

ROSTER UPDATES: Edmonton - Ethan Moreau (shoulder) is out. Daniel Tjarnqvist (inflamed pubic bone) is out. Vancouver - Ryan Kesler (hip) is out. Tommi Santala (knee) is out. Rick Rypien (groin) is questionable. Willie Mitchell (groin) is probable.

FAST FACTS: The last time the Canucks lost in regulation time was January 11 when they were defeated 5-2 by Minnesota... Vancouver's penalty kill is number one in the league at 88.5% and is even better at home where it's 92.4%. They have only allowed 10 power play goals at GM Place this season. However, Edmonton's road PK is even better than the Canucks at home. It ranks tops in the league at 92.6% with only nine power play goals allowed away from Rexall Place all season long.
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