Oilers meet Atlanta at 6:30 tonight
The Edmonton Oilers wrap up a three-game homestand before embarking on a season-high seven-game road trip tonight against the Atlanta Thrashers.
Atlanta is in the midst of a six-game road trip, coming off the heels of a rocky six-game homestand that saw the team win only twice. The trip started off well with a big 6-3 win in Denver over the Avalanche but last night, the Thrashers fell 3-2 to Vancouver and have dropped four of their last five and five of their last seven games.
The Thrashers are firmly entrenched in third place in the Eastern Conference – first in the Southeast Division – and appear to be on their way to the first playoff appearance in franchise history.
Edmonton sits eight points back of both the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference and first place in the Northwest Division. Vancouver, Minnesota and Calgary are all tied with 66 points apiece. The Oilers have a game in hand on the Canucks and two in hand on the Wild.
OILERS TO WATCH: Shawn Horcoff is playing some of his best hockey of the season. He has three goals and five points in his last three games as part of his current three-game scoring streak. Horcoff is five ponts behind Mike Krushelnyski for 18th on the Oilers all-time scoring list... Sykora has a two-game scoring streak in progress with an assist both Friday and Tuesday this past week. With his assist against the Blackhawks, Sykora has figured in 10 of the Oilers' 27 game-winning goals this season. He leads the team with six game winners and has assisted on four other game-winning goals including Horcoff's marker on Friday night.
THRASHERS TO WATCH: Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk have been among the leagues most potent one-two combinations this season. Hossa has 33 goals and Kovalchuk had 32 as both players rank among the league's top five in that category. Hossas 72 points ranks him second in the league in scoring, tied with Tampa's Martin St. Louis Slava Kozlov has been a pleasant surprise this season, scoring 19 goals and adding 59 points. Averaging over a point per game, he is currently on pace for a new career high in that category After spending last season in Lugano and each of the past three years in Europe, Glen Metropolit is enjoying a resurgence in the NHL. He ranks fourth in the league with a career-high 27 points and leads the Thrashers in plus/minus.
ROSTER UPDATES: Edmonton – Ethan Moreau (shoulder) is out. Daniel Tjarnqvist (inflamed pubic bone) is questionable. Jarret Stoll (mild concussion) is questionable; Atlanta – J.P. Vigier (groin) is doubtful.
VALENTINE'S PUCK SURPRISE: Fans attending tonight's game can purchase an autographed puck from one of the Oilers Ladies on the main concourse. Each puck will be signed by a player on the Oilers' current roster, and will be sold for $20, with all proceeds going to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Alberta and Northwest Territories.
FAST FACTS: Despite all their offensive firepower, Atlantas power play ranks a below average 22nd in the league at 16.5%. On the penalty kill, they fare even worse at 29th with a 77.9% efficiency rating Through its first 30 road games, the Thrashers have a record of 16-10-4. Their franchise record for most road wins in a season is 17 set in 2005-06 and they can match that with a win tonight Atlanta is 13 points ahead of their pace from last season When the Thrashers score two or more power play goals, their record is 9-1-1 this season.