OILERS (15-18-4) at CANUCKS (21-16-0)
Last 10 – Edmonton 5-5-0; Vancouver 6-4-0
Season series – The teams are meeting for the fourth time this season, with the Oilers making their third and final visit to GM Place. The home team has won all three games so far, with Edmonton winning 2-1 on Oct. 19 and the Canucks winning 2-0 six days later and 7-3 on Nov. 28.
Big story – The Canucks are wrapping up an eight-game homestand, the longest in the NHL this season, after winning five of the first seven games -- including a 4-1 whipping of the Nashville Predators on Wednesday. In Edmonton, Wednesday's 3-1 loss at Minnesota was the Oilers' fifth in a row.
Oilers – Edmonton was vastly better against the Wild than it was two nights earlier in a 7-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues. But moral victories don't count in the standings, and despite improved play, the Oilers lost their 11th in a row at the Xcel Energy Center.
“It’s a results-driven league,” forward Sam Gagner told the Edmonton Journal.
One player who's really struggled has been defenceman Denis Grebeshkov, who's minus-5 in five games since returning from a knee injury and hasn't been sharp.
“He’s not happy with things. He’s a much better player than that,” coach Pat Quinn said. “He’s too good not to overcome this, but he’s playing afraid. He’s afraid to make a mistake and usually that’s what happens. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
Canucks -- Coach Alain Vigneault gave his troops an extra day off -- and why not. The Canucks can't play much better than they did in Tuesday's night's victory over Nashville. It might have been their best game of the season: Vancouver outshot the Predators 36-21 and outplayed them all night long.
“It was great to see," goaltender Roberto Luongo said. "We knew this was the last game before Christmas and we wanted to make sure we ended on the right note. I thought it was one of our best efforts of the year by far."
Who's hot – Oilers forward Robert Nilsson had Edmonton's only goal in the loss at Minnesota and has scored three times in the last four games. … The Sedin twins had perhaps their best game of the season in Vancouver's win over Nashville. Henrik and Daniel each had a goal and two assists. Henrik is tied for second in the NHL scoring race with 47 points. Henrik is 2-17-19 in 10 games, while Daniel is 6-6-12 in his last seven.
Injury report – Oilers goalie Nikolai Khabibulin remains sidelined with back spasms as does Ales Hemsky (shoulder). Mike Comrie (mononucleosis) and Fernando Pisani (ulcerative colitis) still don't know when they'll be back. … Canucks centre Pavol Demitra has returned from his native Slovakia, where he was seeing a specialist, but is still expected to miss another 3-4 weeks with a shoulder injury that required a second surgery in mid-October. Defenceman Mathieu Schneider has left the team to attend to a personal matter.
Stat pack – Vancouver is the only team that has not lost a game in OT or a shootout this season. … The Oilers are on their longest losing streak since going 0-4-1 from Oct. 22-30, 2008. … Edmonton is 7-4-4 in one-goal games, but 8-14 in games decided by more than one goal. … The Oilers have yet to play a game decided in the five-minute overtime period.
Puck drop -- It's a big game for both teams. The Canucks have to keep banking points at home as they prepare for their 14-game Olympic trip, now only about a month away. The Oilers can't continue to lose, especially to division rivals. if they want to have any chance of making the playoffs.