Oilers aim to dethrone Kings
Memories of Smythe Division match-ups from days gone by may come rushing back tonight as for the third time in four weeks, the Edmonton Oilers face off against the Los Angeles Kings.
In the first meeting, the Kings came out on top 7-4 at Rexall Place on December 28 but the Oilers rebounded to oust Los Angeles in overtime 2-1 at the Staples Center on January 8.
A string of injuries this season, particularly to their number-one and number-two netminders, have really crippled the Kings chances. Heading into last nights game in Vancouver, they had lost six straight games in regulation and winless in seven overall to slip into last place in the Western Conference. Their OT win last night versus the Canucks snapped that slump.
The Oilers remain in a battle with their Northwest Division rivals for the last playoff spot in the conference. They're currently six points behind Minnesota for the last playoff spot but still only seven back of the division lead.
OILERS TO WATCH: Jarret Stoll has been the Oilers top marksmen against the Kings this season. Through two games, he has two goals and two assists for four points With a +9 rating, Fernando Pisani continues to lead the Oilers in that category. Raffi Torres is a close second at +7 Steve Staios will likely make his return to the lineup tonight for the Oilers after missing a number of games with a knee injury... Zack Stortini is also expected to suit up tonight after being recalled from Hamilton this morning. He missed the pre-game skate but is expected to be slotted into the fourth line, replacing either Patrick Thoresen or Brad Winchester.
KINGS TO WATCH: Four different Kings players have put up three points against Edmonton this season after two meetings – Alexander Frolov, Lubomir Visnovsky, Derek Armstrong and Anze Kopitar. Sean Burke might be in goal for Los Angeles tonight. He made his debut as a King on Saturday night after being picked up on re-entry waivers last week. He did well, stopping 23 of 24 shots in 43:20 of action before having to leave the game due to dehydration. He did play last night so his conditioning may be a factor in whether he suits up again tonight.
LINEUP UPDATE: The Oilers went with some different line combinations during the skate this morning. Hemsky skated with Smyth and Horcoff and Sykora was out there with Petersen and Lupul. Petr Nedved and one of Patrick Thoresen or Brad Winchester look to be the odd men out along with Mathieu Roy on defence. It was not apparent who will start in goal but signs are that Markkanen may get the nod.
ROSTER UPDATES: Edmonton – Ethan Moreau (shoulder) is out. Daniel Tjarnqvist (inflamed pubic bone) is doubtful. Steve Staios (knee) is probable; Los Angeles – Scott Thornton (wrist) is out. Mathieu Garon (finger) is out. Dan Cloutier (hip) is doubtful.
FAST FACTS: Tonight, both the Oilers and Kings are participating in back-to-back games. Los Angeles played Vancouver last night while Edmonton faced San Jose. This is the ninth time this season that the Kings have played two games in two nights. Their record on the first night is 2-5-2 and on the second night its 4-4-0. The Oilers are also better in the second game – 1-6-2 in the first game and 2-5-1 in the second game – but have lost four straight on the second night.