EDMONTON OILERS (21-22-4) at
WASHINGTON CAPITALS (19-21-5)
5:08 p.m. MST
Rogers Sportsnet West
630 CHED, Oilers Radio Network and online at edmontonoilers.com.
Game Notes | Oilers/Capitals Stats Comparison | Player Head-to-Head Statistics
After a successful homestand that saw the team take four out of five games and eight out of a possible ten points, the Edmonton Oilers now hope for similar success on the road starting tonight in Washington.
Tonight's game against the Washington Capitals kicks off a five-game road trip that takes the Oilers through the Southeast Division. The Oilers sit seven points back of Colorado for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
In their last game, the Oilers fell 3-1 to the Los Angeles Kings with Dustin Penner
scoring the lone Edmonton goal.
Washington has been playing much better of late after a rough start to the season saw them go 6-14-1 through their first 21 games. That stretch included a streak of five straight losses and a stretch where they only won three times in 18 games.
The Caps have now picked up points in seven of their last nine games including a convincing 4-2 win Tuesday night against the Eastern Conference leading Ottawa Senators.
Currently in 13th place in the Eastern Conference, the Caps are five points out of first place in their division but six points behind the eighth-place New York Rangers.
Just The Facts...
LINEUP UPDATE (12:08 PM):
Dwayne Roloson gets the start in goal tonight but otherwise there are no further lineup changes for the Oilers to open this road trip.
OILERS TO WATCH:
Both Shawn Horcoff
and Ales Hemsky
come into tonight's game on five-game scoring streaks. Horcoff has picked up nine points in his last five while Hemsky has picked up eight... Robert Nilsson is one Oiler who has played a few games against the Caps in his career having originally played in the east with the New York Islanders. In three games versus Washington, Nilsson has a goal and four points... Another player who started in the east is Joni Pitkanen who has three assists in seven career games against the Caps... Fernando Pisani has four goals in three games in his career against the Caps including his only professional hat trick back on March 22, 2003.
CAPITALS TO WATCH:
All eyes will be on Washington's Alexander Ovechkin tonight. He has 34 goals and 55 points in 41 games this season and a team-high +7 rating. The only other time he played the Oilers he was held off the scoresheet. Edmonton and San Jose are the only two teams in which Ovechkin has never registered a point against... Rookie Nicklas Backstrom is making a case for himself as NHL Rookie of the Year. He has 18 points in his last 17 games and 31 on the season overall. He ranks third on the Caps and third among NHL rookies in points... Defenceman Mike Green has 27 points in 45 games this season and has been red hot of late with six points in his last four games. The Calgary native has already shattered his previous career high of 12 points set in 70 games last season.
Edmonton – Matt Greene (ankle) is out. Raffi Torres (knee) is out; Washington – Brian Pothier (upper body) is questionable. Chris Clark (groin) is questionable. Michael Nylander (shoulder) is out.
Washington has been a tough place for the Oilers to find two points in recent history. In fact, the Oilers have never won a game at the Capitals' current arena, the Verizon Center... Each of the last two meetings between these two clubs has resulted in a shutout. In the last meeting, Edmonton defeated Washington 4-0 at Rexall Place back on October 28, 2006 and previous to that the Oilers were blanked 1-0 in Washington during the 2003-04 season.
The Other Side
- 1-16-08 Coaches Dialogue - Head Coach Bruce Boudreau speaks with the media after Tuesday's morning practice. ...more
- Capitals entertain Oilers - The Edmonton Oilers visit Verizon Center for the first time in just over four years on Thursday. Edmonton’s last trip to the District was Jan. 11, 2004 when Caps goaltender Olie Kolzig blanked the Oilers 1-0 ...more
From the Fans
Odds and Ends
- Nominees for top plays - There were plenty of outstanding plays during the back end of the Oilers' recently concluded five-game homestand. Follow the link to vote for your favourites to get them in the running for the top play of 2007-08! ...more
From the Wire
The Washington Capitals didn't need Michael Nylander to complete a season sweep of Eastern Conference-leading Ottawa, and they've done just fine without him at home against Edmonton for over a decade.
After an impressive win in their first game without Nylander, the Capitals look to extend a five-game home winning streak against the Oilers as the teams meet for the only time this season Thursday night.
A day after Nylander decided to undergo season-ending shoulder surgery, Washington (19-21-5) beat Ottawa 4-2 on Tuesday night. Alex Ovechkin scored the tiebreaking goal on a third-period power play to seal the Capitals' fourth win this season against the Senators, whose 62 points are second-most in the NHL.
"It doesn't matter who we play. We have to win," Ovechkin said. "Two points is two points, whether it's against Ottawa or anyone. We want to go up (in the standings)."
Washington's win was even more impressive because it played without Nylander, who was scheduled to have surgery Wednesday to repair a torn left rotator cuff and will be sidelined for three to six months. The veteran center, who signed a four-year, $19.5 million contract with the Capitals as a free agent in July, had 11 goals and a team-high 26 assists in 40 games.
Nylander's 37 points were second only to Ovechkin, who has 34 goals and 21 assists. Capitals general manager George McPhee said Washington would not call up a player to take Nylander's roster spot. Instead, the Capitals will lean more heavily on center Boyd Gordon and winger Viktor Kozlov.
Washington could have used Nylander in last season's matchup with the Oilers, a 4-0 loss in Edmonton, but it has won five straight at home in this series since a 3-1 defeat on Jan. 26, 1997. This will be the teams' first meeting in Washington since Jan. 11, 2004, when the Capitals won 1-0.
Washington is playing the fourth game of a five-game stretch at home, where it is 8-4-1 since losing seven of its first nine. The Capitals are 4-2-0 overall in 2008, scoring four goals or more in four of those games.
Edmonton (21-22-4) had been playing strong defense, allowing a total of five goals during a four-game winning streak before losing 3-1 to Los Angeles at home on Tuesday night.
The Oilers failed to go over the .500 mark for the first time since their fourth game of the season.
"I'm not of the belief that it is something psychological, that it's some kind of burden we can't overcome," Edmonton coach Craig MacTavish said. "We can overcome it. It's not the way we wanted to go on the road, but we did a lot of things right on this homestand and we'll have to remember this lesson of why we lost the hockey game."
Dustin Penner had the lone goal in the finale of a five-game homestand for the Oilers. They will now begin a season-high five-game stretch on the road, where they are 9-10-3.
Penner, second on Edmonton with 13 goals, found the back of the net in last season's matchup with Washington in what was his first career game against the Capitals.