Preview | Game Notes | Head-to-Head | Stats Comparison | Line Combos | Injury Report | Set Fantasy Lineup
AT THE MORNING SKATE
The Oilers welcomed a familiar face back into the fold for morning skate at Rexall Place. After injuring his knee December 7 vs. Anaheim and missing the following 18 games, Shawn Horcoff was an active participant in the drills and is expected to skate with Dustin Penner and Taylor Hall tonight vs. Dallas.
"I think it's a great time to have him back, especially through a run like we're having," fellow center Andrew Cogliano said. "He does everything well so it will be a nice confidence boost."
The last time the Oilers played the Stars (Jan. 11), Hall made his debut at centre. Now that Horcoff is back in action and slotted in on the first line, the talented rookie moves back to left wing.
When asked if he thinks Hall makes a better centerman or winger, head coach Tom Renney said he doesn't want to pigeonhole the 19-year-old.
"Everybody's sort of interchangeable, to a degree at least, and I don't think this early in his career we need to suggest that Taylor's only a winger," he said. "The fact of the matter is Horc can play the wing too. I've had Horc at world championships and he's played the wing."
STRONG START VS STARS
In his first game back, Horcoff is ready to tackle a talented Stars squad.
"The good teams are really starting to separate themselves and they're one of them," he said. "They're a team that has two real good lines up front that can hurt you offensively if you're not careful. For us, we're going to have to do a good job with that."
First periods have been a struggle for the Oilers this season, and Renney wants to see the trend come to an end.
"There's no question you have give your opponent the opportunity to see you coming at them, and we have to do that again. I'm not sure why we don't," the coach said.
"I wish I could put my finger on it. It's not because they don't want to, I don't think it's because they're not capable of it, I do believe there's a little bit of anxiety there in terms of how this is going to go tonight, and we consequently stand and watch instead of being proactive. We're a good team when we go after teams."
Toughness needs to compliment speed and skill, Renney added.
"My vision of this team has all the speed components I talked about but also needs size and strength and it needs a bit of a smash-mouth look to it at times," he explained. "We do need a little bit more of that but it has to be able to play and it has to be able to have the requisite skills to play, and those skills are mental, they're physical, they're emotional.
"We're really at the front end of identifying exactly what this team needs to be a contender. As people are in and out of the line-up, you're looking at that, you're evaluating that, you're seeing who might be able to carry that on through this year."
CATCH IT LIVE
Single and standing tickets are still available for tonight's contest.
CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE
-- Jen Sharpe, edmontonoilers.com
Last 10: Dallas 7-2-1; Edmonton 2-7-1
Season Series: Second of four meetings this season. James Neal scored the go-ahead goal in the third period of the Stars' 3-2 win in Dallas on Jan. 11. Brenden Morrow and Jamie Benn staked them to a 2-0 lead after two, but the Oilers rallied on goals 1:48 apart by Jean-Francois Jacques and Ryan Jones. Neal connected 73 seconds later and Kari Lehtonen finished with 39 saves.
Big Story: Two teams that developed a heated rivalry facing each other six times in the Stanley Cup Playoffs during a seven-year stretch from 1997 to 2003 are in the process of seeing a lot of each other once again. All four games between Dallas and Edmonton this season take place within a span of 36 days. The first matchup provided some big hits and a fight between Kurtis Foster and Jamie Langenbrunner, who was playing his first game back with the Stars.
"I guess you're not allowed to hit anyone in this League any more," said Langenbrunner, whose hit on Linus Omark prompted Foster to come after him. "You throw a check and they come after you. But that's what we wanted to do, be physical on their guys -- they have some pretty good speed there, we did a pretty decent job of that."
Stars: This is the start of a three-game road trip for Dallas, which is 6-0-1 on the new year. The Stars have won four straight and three in a row since reacquiring Langenbrunner from the Devils, who they traded him to at the 2002 deadline. In his 1,000th career game Monday, the 35-year-old right wing scored the decisive goal in a 2-1 win over the Kings, one of two power-play tallies set up by Brad Richards. Lehtonen saved the day by denying Jack Johnson's penalty shot with 53 seconds remaining.
"It's a huge win for us," coach Marc Crawford said. "There were a lot of great individual reasons why we won the game tonight. We had lots of motivation, and I really like the way we played. We got behind early, but we stayed hard at it all night."
Oilers: Playing at home for the first time since Jan. 6 didn't do much to jump start Edmonton's offense Tuesday in a 4-1 loss to Minnesota. Rookie goalie Anton Khudobin had the Oilers shut out until Magnus Paajarvi ended their long power-play drought by scoring with 3:46 remaining.
"I felt that we moved it around pretty well," said Taylor Hall, who finished with three shots. "We had a lot of chances and our breakouts were good, we got the puck in the zone and we moved it around and I guess that's all you can ask for from a power play, and sure enough by the end we got one."
Who's Hot: Loui Eriksson extended his points streak by scoring the Stars' first goal on Monday. He now has 2 goals and 10 assists during the 10-game run, and 5 goals and 16 assists in his last 16 games. Mike Ribeiro has 3 goals and 8 assists during a nine-game points streak. Benn (3-3-6) and Richards (0-7-7) have four-game points streaks going. Lehtonen has allowed two goals or fewer in six straight starts and is 5-0-1 over that stretch. … Paajarvi has goals in consecutive games for the Oilers.
Injury Report: Dallas defenseman Matt Niskanen is day-to-day with a laceration to his left hand, while forward Toby Petersen (lower body) is on injured reserve. … Edmonton forward Ales Hemsky suffered a concussion in Tuesday's game and is out indefinitely, as are forward Gilbert Brule and defenseman Ryan Whitney with ankle injuries. Forwards Shawn Horcoff (knee) and Jordan Eberle (ankle) and defenseman Jim Vandermeer (ankle) are day-to-day.
Stat Pack: Stars defenseman Karlis Skrastins also had a games-played milestone Monday when he reached 800 for his career, the second-most by a Latvian-born player -- Sandis Ozolinsh skated in 875 NHL games. … It took 11 games and 45 power-play opportunities for Paajarvi to break the Oilers' drought with the man advantage.
Puck Drop: If the first matchup was any indication, facing Dallas still brings out the best in Edmonton. Close games were the norm back when they battled in the playoffs nearly every spring -- 22 of the 33 games in those series from 97-03 were decided by a single goal.
-- Brian Hunter - NHL.com Staff Writer