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GAME DAY MORNING
Following an 11-day absence, the Oilers returned to Rexall Place for morning skate Tuesday to prepare for their evening game vs. the Minnesota Wild.
Three injured skaters participated in the drills: Shawn Horcoff (knee), Gilbert Brule (ankle), and Jim Vandermeer (ankle). The trio are listed day-to-day with no concrete timeline for return.
Horcoff, who has been sidelined since December 7, is nearly ready to rejoin the team.
"I've skated with the team now for about a week or so, 10 days or so, and it's feeling really good so hopefully soon," he said. "I don't really feel too much pain, it's just a matter of trying to get all the strength back and the conditioning back and I feel like I'm really close."
Another forward who is on the road to recovery is Jordan Eberle. After suffering an ankle injury New Year's Day vs. Calgary and undergoing an appendectomy a few days later, the talented rookie returned to the ice while the team was away.
It's his ankle, not his abdomen, that needs some more time to heal.
"My stomach is back to normal, it's been good for a few days now, so just kind of taking care of my foot," he said. "Ever since I kind of fell awkwardly, it's kind of been nagging. So I think the biggest key is trying to make sure that when I come back, I don't re-injure it and have it nag for the rest of my career."
About the appendectomy, Eberle said the assessment and recovery was quick.
"I just woke up in the morning. My stomach was killing me, I had some really bad stomach pain, came here, checked it out and they said 'You've got to go to the hospital to check it out.' They kind of poked around and said I had appendicitis and had to get it removed right away.
"It's actually a really quick procedure the way they do it," he added. "They get it out right away and, like I said, I'm pretty much back to normal. It was a pretty quick rehab."
SPARKING THE POWER-PLAY
Unfortunately, Eberle and Horcoff won't be able to contribute where the Oilers are most in need: the power-play. The club has gone without a power-play goal in their last 37 man-advantages, a streak that everyone is eager to stop.
"It's pretty frustrating," Kurtis Foster said. "As an athlete, you kind of try to talk about the process all the time, make sure the process is right and not to worry about the results, but at the end of the day, when the results aren't coming at all, it's tough to take.
"I think everyone needs to realize that it's a privilege to be on the power-play, and when we're out there, we've got to make sure we out-work the opposition and if we do that, usually good things will happen."
Confidence is key, according to head coach Tom Renney.
"I'm not happy with it of course, but neither are the guys. It's a function of being confident with it, going back and getting your puck and coming out confident, together, and staying organized," he said. "In the offensive zone, move it quick, get it to the net, funnel down to the net, stick around the net, pound it back at it."
-- Jen Sharpe, edmontonoilers.com
Last 10: Minnesota 6-4-0; Edmonton 2-7-1
Season Series: This is the second of six meetings between the Northwest Division foes. The Wild scored a 4-2 victory in their home opener back on Oct. 14 as Mikko Koivu scored two of the team's four power-play goals. Niklas Backstrom stopped 24 shots to improve to 12-0-0 with a 1.16 goals-against average lifetime at home against the Oilers. Minnesota took three of six meetings last season, with all of those wins coming in regulation and one loss via the shootout.
Big Story: The first pick in the 2010 Entry Draft, Taylor Hall, is finding some positive karma alongside Edmonton linemates Ales Hemsky and Dustin Penner of late. The trio combined for 3 goals and 9 points in a 5-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Friday. Penner has 2 goals and 4 points in his last six games; Hemsky has 1 goal and 6 points in his last five games and Hall has produced 2 goals and 5 points in his last five matches.
"Everybody brings something special to the line, there's no doubt about that," Oilers coach Tom Renney said. "Taylor is just a fearless kid that wants the puck. He can play the game, he knows where the net is and navigates the ice extremely well."
Wild: When goalie Jose Theodore joined Backstrom (hip) on the Wild sideline after suffering a hip injury in Nashville on Jan. 11, Friday's goaltending tandem in a 4-1 loss to Colorado was Anton Khudobin and Matthew Hackett. Khudobin made 14 saves on 17 shots in the loss to the Avalanche -- his first start of the season. With Backstrom serving as his backup, Khudobin was called upon once again on Sunday and stopped 32 shots in recording his first career shutout in a 4-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks.
"Good teams like that don't play 40 minutes, they play 60 full minutes and it doesn't matter what the score is. They just play as hard as they can, so I was ready for that," Khudobin said.
Oilers: The Oilers concluded a five-game road trip with a 1-4-0 mark following Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. Sam Gagner had 1 goal and 2 points in the loss. The club returns home to open the first of three straight at Rexall Place against the Wild, where they'll look to correct a struggling power play. The Oilers are scoreless on 38 straight power-play opportunities since Dec. 23 after going scoreless on five chances against the Ducks on Sunday. The Oilers, 15th in the Western Conference with 14 wins and 35 points, will play host to Dallas on Thursday and Nashville on Sunday.
Who's Hot: Wild center Mikko Koivu has 8 points (2 goals, 6 assists) in his past eight games. … It's no surprise Edmonton goalie Devan Dubnyk is earning more playing time. He's started three of the last six games and, for the season, sports a 4-4-5 record with a team-low 2.81 goals-against average and .920 save percentage.
Injury Report: Minnesota is without Theodore (hip), defenseman Marek Zidlicky (shoulder) and forward Guillaume Latendresse (groin). … Edmonton defenseman Ryan Whitney, out with an ankle injury, reportedly is headed for surgery. Captain Shawn Horcoff (knee) hopes to be back this week. Winger Gilbert Brule is out with an ankle injury, as is defenseman Jim Vandermeer. Rookie forward Jordan Eberle is still recovering from an ankle injury and an appendectomy.
Stat Pack: Wild wing Cal Clutterbuck leads the team with 13 goals, already matching his career high set last season, while ranking first in the NHL with 212 hits.
Puck Drop: Hall is currently third among rookies with 14 goals, third in points (27 points) and first among first-year forwards in average ice time (18:17).
-- Mike G. Morreale - NHL.com Staff Writer