The Edmonton Oilers started this season's home schedule by celebrating their first Western Conference championship since 1990. They'll try to close it out in strong fashion after ending one of the longest streaks of futility in franchise history.
Edmonton (31-37-7) plays its final game of 2006-07 at Rexall Place on Saturday night against the playoff-bound Nashville Predators in the start of a home-and-home series.
The Oilers snapped a 12-game winless streak with a 4-3 shootout victory over Colorado on Friday night. It was Edmonton's first win since topping Detroit by the same score in a shootout on Feb. 23, and its first at home since a 5-1 rout of Atlanta on Feb. 11.
"That's about as good as you can feel for a team that is not going to go to the playoffs," said Oilers forward Joffrey Lupul, whose goal with 1:47 left in regulation tied the score. "That was a great feeling. It is a huge weight off our shoulders. Hopefully we can start playing some good consistent hockey."
Edmonton also got regulation goals from Ales Hemsky and Petr Sykora, a shootout tally from Marty Reasoner and a season-high 43 saves from Dwayne Roloson en route to its first win since the NHL trading deadline deal that sent longtime Oilers star Ryan Smyth to the New York Islanders.
"It's a good feeling, I won't kid you," Oilers coach Craig MacTavish said of the win. "Everybody is feeling good in the dressing room and it will finally give us a little life. More importantly it stops the bleeding. We've been hemorrhaging pretty consistently."
With Smyth gone, Sykora's 21 goals are the most on the team. However, he has only two goals and three assists in his last six games versus the Predators (47-21-7), who lost 3-2 in overtime to Calgary on Thursday night but still clinched a playoff spot for the third straight season.
Nashville has dropped four of its last five games while trying to cope with injuries. Among the key players missing from the lineup are Steve Sullivan (back), Scott Hartnell (foot) and Martin Erat (knee).
"Once we get all our people healthy, we'll be a lot different team," Nashville coach Barry Trotz said. "We've got a lot of pieces we can still add so we'll be a different team."
Peter Forsberg will face Edmonton for the first time since the Predators acquired him from Philadelphia in February. He hasn't played against the Oilers since Jan. 27, 2004, while with Colorado, but enters this contest with five goals and five assists during a four-game point streak against them.
The 2003 Hart and Art Ross Trophy winner had two assists in Thursday's win, giving him multipoint efforts in three of his last seven games.
With seven games remaining - including five at home - the Predators are on their way to setting new single-season records for wins and points. Nashville needs three wins to eclipse the 49 it tallied last season, and is five points shy of the 106 it recorded in 2005-06.
The teams will wrap up their season series on Tuesday night in Nashville, a contest which starts a season-ending six-game road trip for Edmonton.